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SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 Service Pack 2 targets Solaris shops

SUSE shops are cautious after a long silence from the Novell post-Attachmate deal; experts say Linux has eclipsed Unix generally, but SUSE needs work.

SUSE has emerged following a tumultuous year with a new service pack for version 11 of its operating system. It’s a good sign for existing SUSE shops but probably not enough to win a more substantial Linux market share, experts say.

SUSE, separated from its former owner Novell under the ownership of Attachmate Corp., hopes to woo Sun Solaris operating system users with a new file system that competes with Sun’s ZFS. It also supports Linux-based virtualization containers to compete with Solaris Zones.

The file system Btrfs includes checksums for data integrity, support for copy-on-write snapshots which improves the efficiency of snapshot volumes and can scale up to 16 exabytes of data.

Ironically, Btrfs originally began as an Oracle project in 2007.

“It’s a little funny to be focused on Btrfs, which is an Oracle technology, in order to convince people to move away from Solaris,” said Jonathan Eunice, analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc..

Meanwhile, it’ll take some selling to get the new file system into even loyal SUSE shops.

“When you put down a patch for something like an operating system, your first thought is not, ‘Oh good, I can change my file system structure’,” said Nigel Fortlage, vice president of information technology with GHY International, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 Service Pack 2 (SP2) will also make the snapshot capabilities part of the Zypper update stack. The file system will make a snapshot both before and after updates, allowing users to roll back if there’s any problem. A similar utility will be available with system configuration tools.

With this release, SUSE also switched from a backporting model, which stuck with an older version of the Linux kernel and added patches for new features, to what it calls a forward-looking development model, which will use a wholesale upgrade to the 3.0 version of the Linux kernel as the basis for ongoing updates.

“It is a little scary because they will be one of the first to actually go with the new kernel in an enterprise product,” said Fortlage. “That’s always something where I take a wait-and-see approach.”

Still, Fortlage said he is relieved there has been an update following “a long silence” after the Attachmate deal.

“Now that the Novell overhead is slowly leaving the organization, perhaps that means that they’re coming back to being a great organization to do business with again,” Fortlage said.

Fortlage said he will wait to see the market uptake and early bug fixes for this service pack before making the upgrade.

Whether SUSE can compete with Oracle/Sun also remains to be seen. SUSE has a general trend of Unix-to-Linux migrations over the last 10 years to back it up, but its market share has eroded given confusion over the Novell reorganization, according to Eunice.

In TechTarget's Data Center Decisions 2011 survey, 40% of respondents reported they were using Red Hat Enterprise Linux, 16% using Ubuntu Linux, 14% using CentOS and Novell SUSE Linux equally and 12% using Oracle Enterprise Linux.

In 2010, 41% of IT staffs said they used Red Hat Enterprise Linux with 16% using SUSE Linux, 14% using Ubuntu Linux, 11% using Oracle Enterprise Linux and just over 1% using CentOS.

Competing with and taking share from Unix operating systems “is not a totally new [shift] … all of the major Linux providers are essentially on this same course,” Eunice said. “But Novell has been adrift at sea for a number of years, and SUSE in some ways has drifted along with them.”

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for and Write to her at

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