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Every Linux distribution has a kernel that offers support for real-time apps. SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time is a Linux kernel that also offers applications and tools to manage and support a real-time environment. The kernel uses different scheduler queues and makes a distinction between normal processes and real-time processes. If there is a shortage of available resources, the Linux kernel will service the real-time resources first.
For example, if you open a utility such as top, the Linux kernel starts some kernel threads as real-time processes by default. This approach guarantees that the kernel serves essential processes and applications -- such as those used in high-performance computing or financial transactions -- first, while lower-priority processes and applications have to wait.
There are other options to enable real-time support besides SUSE Enterprise Linux Real Time; you can use the chrt command on any Linux distribution to put specific processes that are not kernel threads in the real-time queue. This process, however, requires expertise. If you aren't careful about what's entered into the real-time queue, you can risk breaking your entire server. For example, if you use the wrong settings and configure a busy IT process -- such as a large compiling job or a database query -- as an uninterruptible, real-time process, there won't be any more resources left for essential kernel processes to run.
Since organizations typically use real-time processes and applications in critical environments, it is essential to have appropriate support for them. The SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time extension offers that support, but it doesn't run any non-open source software. Still, while you could build your own real-time system for Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time is a more reliable and supported product.
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