In association with heise online

10 July 2013, 14:15

What's new in SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 SP3

Thorsten Leemhuis

Service Pack 3 includes numerous enhancements for virtualisation and, by adding Secure Boot support and new drivers, beefs up support for newer hardware. There are also numerous enhancements relating to server storage and networking.

Just under 18 months after the second revamp of SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE) 11, SUSE has released Service Pack (SP) 3, which includes bug fixes, new drivers, updated software and a range of new features.

UEFI Secure Boot

New features in SP3 include support for UEFI Secure Boot. This allows the distribution to boot on standard Windows 8 systems, on which Secure Boot is generally enabled, ensuring that the firmware will launch only trusted operating systems, which now include the SLE SP3 installation media for x86-64 systems. SLE SP3 uses a variant of bootloader shim which has been signed by Microsoft (thus following the same route taken by the latest versions of Fedora, openSUSE and Ubuntu).

In contrast to Ubuntu but in common with Fedora, under SLE 11 Secure Boot results in some restrictions in operation. Kexec, Kdump and software suspend/hibernate, for example, do not work where Secure Boot is enabled, and users will also need to utilise graphics drivers that support kernel-based mode setting (KMS). In addition, the bootloader called by shim, the kernel launched by it and modules loaded by it all have to be signed. The signature used is a SUSE signature. Using the MOK mechanism developed by SUSE, users can, however, store their own keys, allowing them to compile and then sign and load their own kernels and kernel modules even with Secure Boot enabled. This makes using external drivers more complicated, but SUSE hopes to counteract this disadvantage by extending its Partner Linux Driver Programme.

Underlying infrastructure

The SLE kernel is based on Linux 3.0. SP3 is therefore the first Service Pack for SLE 11 not to feature a major change to the base kernel version. This follows upgrades from Linux 2.6.27 to 2.6.32 in SP1 and to Linux 3.0 in SP2. SUSE appears to have had something of a rethink, given that when it released SP2, major kernel updates, as part of its "forward looking development" model, were touted as one of the distribution's big advantages.

The switch to basing SLE kernels on more recent kernels provided SLE customers with new features and drivers that had since been merged into the official Linux kernel. The switch in kernel versions did, however, mean that, for example, drivers which had been compiled for the SLE 11 SP1 kernel no longer worked, or required modification to work, under SP2. The H's associates at heise Open have heard from some SLE 11 users that the big advance in kernel version number had resulted in compatibility problems with userland software.

The decision to stick with the same kernel version should mean that such problems crop up less frequently. SUSE has nonetheless made a number of major changes to and integrated several features from more recent kernels into the SP3 kernel – much as Red Hat does for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) – while retaining the same base kernel.

New versions

SP3 also includes some important software updates – in the case of MySQL, for example, SUSE has removed the no-longer-maintained MySQL 5.0 and moved up to version 5.5. Since this version is not able to work with databases from the older version, system administrators will have to run a script to convert existing databases. Details can be found in the release notes.

Postfix users are also well-advised to consult the release notes, as it too has been upgraded, from version 2.5.13 to 2.9.4. As a result, the message transfer agent (MTA) now behaves slightly differently at some points, but also offers additional functionality.

SUSE has also updated numerous drivers, as a result of which SLE 11 now supports E5 series Xeon processors and the recently released fourth version of Intel's Core processors. With SP3 the distribution is also now suitable for use with AMD 4000 and 6000 series Opteron processors.

Next page: Filesystems, server and desktop versions, test version

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