SUSE Linux Expert Day 2015 Frankfurt

This week one of the SUSE Linux Expert Day events that are taking place worldwide since september 2014 was hosted at 25hours Hotel Frankfurt by Levi’s – a very stylish and fancy location!

Agenda

The event was planned for 5 hours and consisted of many interesting talks:

  • Keynote – Michael Jores, Regional Director Central Europe SUSE
  • SUSE Roadmap – Olaf Kirch, Director SUSE Linux Enterprise
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 – Lars Pinne, Senior Systems Engineer SUSE
  • SUSE Cloud Überblick & Ausblick – Lars Pinne, Senior Systems Engineer SUSE
  • Kundenreferenz: FIS-ASP GmbH, Matthias Braun, FIS-ASP GmbH
  • Wrap-up, Q&A – Martin Wolf, Account Executive Team Lead SUSE

SUSE roadmap

Right after the keynote the plans of further development of current SUSE products was presented by Olaf Kirch. Of this planning is not binding but it already shows development trends.

After SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 was released in October 2014 the update SP4 for the previous major release 11 should be released in June/July this year. After common kernel driver updates (if the don’t need updating the API/ABI) support for the IBM z13, POWER8 BE and Intel Haswell EX plattforms (basic support only) are planned. In accordance with the current planning this service pack will be the last – there are no plans for SP5.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 is currently being certified for ERP software components by SAP. A official approval is planned for Q1/2015 so that customers can utilize the full product portfolio on the most recent SLES version whive profiting by the support of SAP and SUSE.

SUSE’s own cloud suite SUSE Cloud will be released in version 5 in the first half of 2015. Amongst high-available virtual guests also Docker containers should be supported as technical preview. These containers are also planned to be administrable in combination with later SUSE Manager versions. I really hope that this feature will also become part of the Spacewalk upstream project. For the third quarter another update for SUSE cloud based on OpenStackKilo” is planned. This version should include the possibility to run the Control Nodes needed by OpenStadt on SLES 12. For 2016 SUSE Cloud 7 based on OpenStack 7 is planned.

With their product SUSE Storage Server the Nurembergs are looking forward to become successful in the software-defined storage market. It is focussed on customers looking forward to implement Private or Hybrid Cloud technology or researching for low or mid-performance storages replacing conventional SAN systems. The core component of this product is Ceph which is popular for its scaling, data deduplication and self-healing capabilities. Faulty hard drives are detected and – depending on your setup – replaced automatically by spare mediums. Three important components of the Ceph concept are:

  • Object storage – distributed, object-based storage, access over C, C++, Java, Python, PHP or RESTful interfaces, implementing striping and snapshot functionalities
  • Block storage – object storage can also be served as thin-provisioned block storage (e.g. for VMs)
  • File system – POSIX-compatible file system with direct access to object storage, official Linux kernel integration since 2010 (2.6.34), optionally there is also a FUSE client

While selected customers had access to a beta version last year a first official version based on Ceph “Firefly” will be published in the first quarter this year. The programm version 2.0 based on Ceph “Hammer” is planned for Q3/2015. While the servers needs to be SLES 12 it is also supported to use SLE 11 on connected clients.

I was happy when I heard that SUSE has no plans for replacing Spacewalk as upstream project for the management suite SUSE Manager. For Satellite 6 Red Hat did a hard cut and switched the code base. For this it is mandatory to know that Satellite 6 is not an update for Satellite 5.x – it is a completely redesigned product. For 2016 SUSE Manager 3 including SLES 12 SP1 support and high availability and monitoring functions are planned. I’m very excited to see how SUSE will revise the basic monitoring functions of Spacewalk. I never used them by now because the function range was not sufficient to me. These plans are a good indicator that Spacewalk will benefit of further development even though it is not pathbreaking to Red Hat anymore. For 2017 the availability of SUSE Manager 4 estimated.

SUSE Linux Enterprise 12

SysVinit vs. Systemd

SysVinit vs. Systemd

After 5 years a new major release of SUSE Linux Enterprise was released in October 2014.

In comparsion with the previous version some big changes were made – Systemd might be the biggest and most controversial discussed change. During the last year this update which replaced SysVinit in the most distros forced disquietness in the Linux scene. This was also visible on this event – the typical “Systemd vs. SysVinit” discussion was not missing.

I have to admit that I’m tired of this topic in the meantime. For some time hotly discussions in the internet that are often ending in “shit storms” and personal attacks (e.g. there were aid appeals to “stop” Lennart Poettering on his work) are the order of the day. “Projects” like Devuan Linux are adding fuel to the fire again and again. In my opinion a referee summarized this very good analogously like this:

It is the same every 10 – 15 years. When RC scripts were replaced by SysVinit everybody found it horrible even though there were no significant disadvantages. By now nobody wants to miss it and now this is repeated for Systemd.

I agree to this. Systemd is a radical but modern change the brings a lot of advantages. Because technical innovation also means re-thinking and new capabilities this first hurdle can also be a disadvantage. Enterprise distros like SUSE Linux Enterprise or Red Hat Enterprise Linux are also offering optional possibilites to use well-known tools (e.g. service, chkconfig, old configuration files) to customers to make transition easier. Independent of this I expected more openness and tolerance by the Linux scene.

In SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 two radical changes were made: Systemd and dropping the 32-bit Intel architecture i686. Pure 32-bit systems are not in great demand anymore – there are rarely arguments justifying a preference for 32-bit systems against 64-bit alternatives. For the first time SLES 12 will also not support Intel Itanium-based systems (ia64) anymore. With this SUSE performs a cut that other distributors like Red Hat already did in the past. The incompetitive processor architecture is not in great demand anymore – it is not an reference architecture for Linux customers anymore for a long time.

With Xen, KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) and LXC (Linux Containers) there are three virtualization possibilities. For container applications Docker is included.

Btrfs (ButterFS) is the new default file system in SLE12 which is completely covered by the SUSE support (if you are only using the default file system features configurable using YaST) and offers additional features like event-driven snapshots. Using this Zypper is able to create snapshots before system updates – if the system is not able to boot anymore after the update it is possible to start the last snapshot using GRUB. It has become proven to use BtrFS for the operating system and XFS for data partitions (e.g. MySQL database files). ext4 is now also supported in write mode – SLE11 only supported read-only access. The reason for this was that this file system could not be tested well enough to fully support it for productional environments. It was also mentioned that ext4 became secondary to SUSE because it offers worse performance in asynchronus IO calls in comparsion with XFS.

The central configuration utility YaST was re-designed. It now uses Ruby instead of the customized language YCP. With this it is expected to make software maintenance much easier. A new network backend called Wicked was integrated in YaST. The event-driven service focussess client systems as well as server systems and virtual machines in Hybrid Clouds (the slide title was called “Network configuration as a service” 😀). It is recommended to implement network configurations on new systems in Wicked – well-known configuration possibilities are also still supported.

Some software pacakges have been swapped out in modules by SUSE. These modules are supported for a couple of years, not for 10 to 13 years. Currently these modules include:

  • Web and scripting – PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails (3 years support)
  • Legacy – Sendmail, old Java versions, etc. (3 years support)
  • Public Cloud – Public Cloud software packages (continuous integration)
  • Toolchain – GNU Compiler Collection (1 year support per yearly release)
  • Advanced System Management – utilities and frameworks for system management (continuous integration)

With Machinery SUSE offers a technical preview for a solution migrating services of existing systems. This software analyzes system configurations, consolidates them and migrates offered services The product is focusses on migrations (z.B. from SLE11 to 12) and Hybrid Clouds. Desaster Recovery scenarios can also benefit from Machinery – currently this is not covered by the support.

Kernel live patching

This events slogan was “Towards Zero Downtime” – it is also used by the Nurembergs to advertise the kernel live patching functionality of SLES 12. Like Red Hat this feature is also sold as additional product to conclude additional support contracts. Kernel patches are distributed as RPM packages installing the modules and updating initial ramdisks. Using ftrace and the itself developed component kGraft kernel function calls are redirected to their new modules. Already executed applications don’t need to be restarted. Currently only the x86_64 platform is supported but furhter architecture should follow if customers require it. With kGraft (SUSE) and kPatch (Red Hat) there are currently two competitor open-source products to the proprietary kSplice (Oracle) using similar kernel modules to implement live patching. Im November last year a first discussion about combining those products were started by Red Hat – the decision of the upstream community will be crucial.

SUSE Cloud

SUSE Cloud combines three products representing an interesting toolkit for Private and Hybrid Clouds:

  • OpenStack – core architecture for Cloud services
  • Crowbar – Provisioning framework, uses amongst others PXE for fully automatic installations
  • Ceph – object-driven storage backend

In comparsion with alternate products the Nurembergs are also certifying testes hardware and software setups and also other hypervisors unsupported by OpenStack. Especially VMware vSphere installations are supported by SUSE. You can download a 60-days trial which implements a whole Private Cloude setup in 30 minutes on the SUSE website. In comparsion to a manual setup SUSE Cloud adopts a lot of configuration options which is interesting for customers that don’t have any experiences with OpenStack yet.

Like Red Hat also SUSE contributes a lot to the OpenStack project as a platinum member – especially financial help is important to the project.

Conclusion

For me it was the first SUSE event like this at all. SUSE willfully planned plenty of regional rather than few national events to ensure smaller number of participants and promote discussions. I can admit that I liked this about the passed event. The number of participants was manageable, it was possible to get in touch with other customers and participate in discussions. The talks were very interesting, in case of question of details it was possible to talk to experienced SUSE staff. The location was very stylish and fancy.

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