The 32-bit versions of SUSE Linux Enterprise for servers and desktops with x86 processors can still run as Xen guests, but they can no longer perform virtualisation using Xen, as SUSE no longer includes the Xen hypervisor with x86-32 versions of the distribution. The x86-64 versions come with both KVM and Xen virtualisation platforms, though the support contract for the desktop edition does not cover the use of KVM.
SUSE now supports the use of up to 64 processor cores by guest systems running under KVM virtualisation. However, it does not support modifying the number of cores allocated to a guest system on the fly. With the aid of the newly introduced VirtFS (Plan 9 folder sharing over Virtio), guest systems running under QEMU/KVM should, where required, be able to more quickly access parts of the host filesystem. From Service Pack 2, SUSE support covers running Windows as a guest system under KVM; where this configuration is used, the distributor advises users to install the WHQL-certified Virtio drivers for Windows, which form part of the VMDP (Virtual Machine Driver Pack) for the distribution.
Following the switch from kernel 2.6.27 to 2.6.32 in Service Pack 1, SUSE now moves to Linux 3.0, which was released in summer 2011. In its release notes, SUSE notes that some programs can become confused by the lack of a third set of version number digits or by version numbers starting with a "3". The problem can, however, be circumvented by using the uname26 command line program to call problem applications. Alternatively applications can be started in the context of a 2.6 kernel using a pluggable authentication module (PAM).
The new kernel delivers many improved functions for RAS (reliability, availability and serviceability). The SUSE kernel also includes the CFS bandwidth controller merged into Linux 3.2, which is able to limit the processor time available to individual processes. This feature, also known as CPU hard limits, is important in environments where customers need to be restricted to using no more than the processor time they have paid for. The kernel uses transparent huge pages (THP) by default, which enables better use of processor resources for memory management and reduces management overhead – resulting in improved performance – in some situations. In its release notes SUSE does, however, explain how to deactivate this feature which can have a negative effect on performance in some cases.
The new kernel version means that both server and desktop editions of the distribution now contain hundreds of new and improved drivers – including, for example, a USB 3.0 driver. With the help of a number of additional drivers, Service Pack 2 adds supports for version 3.0 of Intel's Rapid Storage Technology (RSTe3.0), and is better able to deal with iSCSI and FCoE hardware. It also supports a range of new wireless components from Intel. Additionally, the update adds drivers for the graphics core used in the second generation of Core i – aka Sandy Bridge – processors. SP2 includes support for some of the functions provided by Intel's forthcoming Platform Controller Hub (PCH). This probably relates to Panther Point, a chipset designed to be paired with Ivy Bridge processors, which Intel is planning to release in the second quarter.
SUSE has also updated some userland drivers, for example, version 3.11.5 of the HPLIP drivers for HP printers and multi-function printers is now included. OpenSSL is able to utilise Intel's AES-NI (AES New Instructions), which recent Intel processors use to take care of some AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption and decryption tasks. SUSE has removed support for Intel's IAMT (Intel Active Management Technology), as Intel is no longer maintaining this technology.