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There are no major changes in terms of filesystem support compared to SP2. The default filesystem remains ext3 and SUSE support covers the use of Reiserfs 3.6, XFS and Btrfs. The latter is still designated as experimental in the official Linux kernel, but SUSE has updated the filesystem code so that, among other things, Btrfs now supports subvolume quotas. OCFS2 support is provided by the High Availability Extension. SUSE doesn't support the use of ext4 and the SLE kernel is therefore only able to read from ext4 filesystems where write support has not been manually activated.

Snapshot tool snapper, which was added as part of SP2 and could be used with Btrfs, is now able to work with LVM's thin provisioning feature – a further new addition in SP3. SUSE also claims to have improved snapper performance and now allows users who do not have root privileges to manage snapshots.

Desktop version

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) sees KVM retain its status as a technology preview and under which SUSE does not provide official support. With the development team having now stopped work on Java runtime environment OpenJDK 6 (java-1_6_0-openjdk) (first introduced in SP2), SUSE has included OpenJDK 7, which is not fully compatible with its predecessor.

Server version

For virtualisation with KVM, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) now supports up to 2TB RAM and 160 CPU cores per guest, rather than the 512GB and 64 cores of the previous version. SLES now supports running a VM within another VM (nesting) on more recent Intel processors, though this feature is officially a technology preview.

System emulator Qemu, which is used with KVM virtualisation, has been upgraded to version 1.4, which brings with it a number of new functions and some performance improvements. These include the virtio-blk data plane (as a technical preview), which speeds up guest access to virtual media provisioned by the host.

The Xen code is based on Xen 4.2. Forwarding of PCI devices to KVM or Xen guests can now be controlled using libvirt. The "SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack", which contains drivers for SLES guest systems, has been upgraded to version 2.1 and includes drivers for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

One of the many enhancements for SLES deployment under Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor is a framebuffer graphics driver that supports a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels when running under Windows Server 2012. Also new is support for host-initiated backups and using ballooning to change guest memory size. Other enhancements enable Windows hosts and SLES guests to automatically negotiate the best communication protocol to maximise efficiency.

SP3 also adds support for Transparent Inter-Process Communication. SUSE has updated the kernel code for mounting an iSCSI target accessible via iSCSI or FCoE to the same state as the LIO ( in Linux kernel 3.4. The SDK now includes GCC 4.7.2 – which offers broader support for ISO C 11 and ISO C++ 11 than the system compiler – as an optional compiler. Openswan, IBM's Java runtime environment, and PHP 5.2 have all been removed.

The SLE kernel now includes the basic components required to support Intel's Active Management Technology for remote maintenance – actually using it requires the installation of additional Intel tools, however. The SLE edition for System z (s390x) has KVM support as a technical preview, which should make it easier for Linux-friendly administrators to handle virtual machines on the IBM platform.

Test versions

One way users can update to SP3 is via zypper. SLE customers have just under six months to upgrade to SP3, as at the end of the year SUSE will cease supporting SLE11 with SP2. After that, only customers who have subscribed to long-term service pack support will continue to receive support for SP2.

Following registration, users can download 60-day test versions of SLE11 SP3 for free.

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