Suse Linux Enterprise 12 Says Hello to ARM

Suse Linux this week announced a partnership to extend support for 64-bit ARM server processors. The goal is to give Suse Linux Enterprise 12 users greater flexibility and cost efficiencies with respect to their infrastructures.

This expansion makes available to seven partners a version of Suse Linux Enterprise 12 that lets them develop, test and deliver products to the market using 64-bit ARM chips. The partners are chipmakers AMD, AppliedMicro and Cavium, and server manufacturers Dell, E4 Computer Engineering, HP and SoftIron.

Suse Linux Enterprise 12 already supported the x86-64, Power8 and IBM System z architectures. Suse just released a new version of the operating system for ARM’s AArch64 architecture, but it is available only for development and testing.

“With this announcement, Suse is telling the partner community that the time is now to start building solutions based on ARM,” said David Byte, Suse’s senior technology strategist for alliances and integrated systems.

What It Does

ARM server processors provide a scalable and configurable technology platform to meet diverse business and application needs in the data center, offering a way to efficiently Web-scale workloads and achieve rapid cloud buildout, among other capabilities.

Support for ARM processors extends to security, medical and network devices, as well as hyperscale computing, distributed storage, and software-defined and classic networking.

Suse simplified partner access to support for ARM and AArch64 with its openSuse Build Service, which allows the community to build packages against real 64-bit ARM hardware and the Suse Linux Enterprise 12 binaries. The openSuse Build Service can speed up time to market and improve compatibility for AArch64 solutions.

Another benefit is for end users. Their suppliers will take less time to build, test, and release to market products based on 64-bit ARM architectures.

As interest in ARM-based servers continues to increase, the latest release with Suse represents an important step toward building a broad and robust enterprise Linux software ecosystem, noted Jeff Underhill, director of server programs for ARM.

Late to the Party

Suse ARMed itself a bit behind one of its main Linux OS competitors. Red Hat earlier this year announced its own ARM partner program, with some 35 organizations signing on. Several of the Suse partners are already among the Red Hat participants.

“This milestone enables partners to develop, test and deliver products to the market using 64-bit ARM-based silicon, leveraging Suse’s proven enterprise expertise built on the strong foundation of Suse Linux Enterprise 12,” Underhill told LinuxInsider.

Lagging customer demand for ARM support may have justified delaying a working partnership with ARM chip vendors. ARM server chips are not yet overtaking Intel’s x86 architecture, according to Suse.

However, interest in ARM architecture seems to be growing. One of the benefits is the improved performance that 64-bit ARM processors provide. Another is that they need less power to run than other processor architectures, Underhill said.

Advantages like higher performance and lower energy consumption are particularly important when considering hyperscale data centers, or the drive in the HPC market to exascale, Suse’s Byte told LinuxInsider.

Meeting Needs

Suse’s partnership strategy with ARM is an example of how the company applies its “we adapt, you succeed” philosophy, said Byte. Supporting ARM architecture now is really about meeting Suse’s partners where the business is.

“From a competitive perspective, partners who engage with these technologies early will be able to take advantage of any number of innovations that are happening at the silicon level,” he said.

Suse came to the party with the tooling necessary to ease adoption of the 64-bit ARM technology. It has been working with it since far before silicon was available — including patches to qemu — thus making it possible to develop and test the OS code before the SoC vendors had product, explained Byte.

“We naturally followed the route of enabling core tools like KIWI and the openSuse Build Service along the way, as well,” he said. “Partners have had access to pieces of the tooling, including the two just mentioned, for a long time to work with openSuse. Their involvement in this announcement is about them now being able to use them against Suse Linux Enterprise for AArch64, as well.”

Sparking More Interest

Growing interest in the technology benefits the competitive landscape. ARM’s business model delivers a scalable technology platform that can be configured to meet diverse business and application needs, Underhill said.

“The addition of ARM and AArch64 into the openSuse Build Service allows the community to build packages against real 64-bit ARM hardware and the Suse Linux Enterprise 12 binaries, improving time to market and compatibility for AArch64 solutions,” he added.

Ultimately, the addition of Suse Linux Enterprise 12 enables greater choice, Underhill emphasized, and it will further open the server market to increased innovation and competition.

Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him onGoogle+.

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