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This chapter is from the book

The Linux Solution

Every application, service, or solution requires a protocol engine or operating system. Although several open source operating systems or kernels are available, for all practical intents and purposes, Linux is the market leader. Linux is a platform for everything from computation-intensive clusters to thin-client desktops to web servers. In reality, Linux can be lightweight and small enough to be embedded in a wristwatch or powerful and scalable enough to manage the largest IBM mainframe running hundreds of instances of applications.

Distributions are available from Red Hat, Debian, Mandrake, TurboLinux, and others that are based on the same Linux kernel and include similar capabilities. However, Novell believes the SUSE distributions provide significant advantages in the areas of management, platforms supported, compatibility testing performed, and advanced technologies.

SUSE Linux Product Line

The SUSE Linux product line from Novell includes SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 9 and SUSE Linux Desktop.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9

The SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is targeted to enterprise computing uses in which scalability, performance, reliability, and security are required. This distribution includes many distinctive features that make it particularly suited to an enterprise environment, including those shown in Tables 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3.

Table 3.1 SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 Distinctive Features



Linux 2.6 kernel

First enterprise-class Linux server operating system built on the 2.6 Linux kernel (see Table 3.2)


Installation and configuration tool for operating system, network services, storage, clusters, and applications


Open application programming interfaces (APIs) for CIM for integration of third-party management tools


Class-based kernel resource management for mainframe-like partitioning of large-scale servers


Clustering support for automatic failover and high-performance computing; implements Open Clustering Framework APIs to provide low-level services for node fencing and fault isolation


A feature providing Hotplug services for hardware change without system disruption

Certified security

A feature currently in evaluation for compliance with EAL 4+

Enterprise Volume

Network-based storage using multiple file systems with Manager simple management

User Mode Linux

A feature used to enable virtualization of different Linux configurations on the same hardware

Distributed Replicated

A feature that creates single partitions from multiple Block Device (DRBD) disks that mirror each other (similar to RAID 1 but over a network)

Table 3.2 Linux 2.6 Kernel Features Included with SLES



Processor support

Can have a theoretical infinite number of processors; Novell-tested 128 CPU configuration

File support

Provides dynamic tuning to accommodate maximum number of simultaneously open files


Run up to 65,535 user-level processes, plus additional kernel-level thread processes


Support up to 4 billion unique users

Device types

Support 4,095 major device types and more than a million subdevices per type

Device support

Manages more devices with better performance (for example, 32,000 SCSI disks)

High speed

Supports USB 2.0 and FireWire (IEEE 1394 and 1394b)

High throughput

Provides high-speed Serial (ATA, S-ATA) device support, which enables throughput of 150MB/sec

Non-Uniform Memory

Scales more efficiently for systems with dozens or Access hundreds of processors


Executes parallel threads within a single processor; speeds transaction rates and performance for multithreaded applications

Flexible I/O scheduler

Allows manual tuning of I/O scheduler according to I/O behavior policies

Table 3.3 SUSE Linux 9 Hardware Platform Support




Intel x86 architecture including 386, 486, and Pentium processors; same as IA-32 (32-bit architecture)


64-bit extension of the IA-32 architecture by manufacturer AMD (includes Athlon and Opteron)

Intel EM64T

Extended Memory 64-bit Technology (EM64T), Intel implementation of AMD64 (code-named Nocona, sold as Xeon)

Intel Itanium

64-bit microprocessor developed by HP and Intel (IA-64)

IBM Power

RISC CPU designed by IBM (Performance Optimized With Enhanced RISC)

IBM zSeries

IBM 64-bit architecture for IBM System/390 mainframes

IBM S/390

Earlier IBM zSeries platform

In addition, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 includes features contained in other Linux distributions, such as file, print, web application, relational database, and networking services. Built-in services and protocols include CUPS, DNS, DHCP, IMAP, NTP, SLP, Postfix, PXE, Proxy, Samba, SNMP, SMTP, and many others. Security features include encrypted file systems, certificate authority, integrated firewall, and proxy.

SUSE Linux Desktop

Novell SUSE Linux Desktop is an end-user platform designed as a complete solution for any desktop. It includes the Linux operating system as well as a host of applications and services that provide end users with office productivity applications, client services, and access to network and web services. Table 3.4 offers an overview of what's included.

Table 3.4 SUSE Linux Desktop Features



Linux operating system

Linux 2.X kernel with standard components for configuration (YaST), interface (KDE, GNOME), security, network services, and more

Standard hardware support

X86, notebooks, workstations, USB, storage, CD-ROM, DVD, cameras, tablets, PDAs, mouse, keyboards, FireWire, PCMCIA, and so on

Internet clients

Web browser (Mozilla, Konquerer), FTP, mail (Kmail, Evolution, Mozilla Mail), and so on

Desktop applications

Office suite (OpenOffice.org—word processing, spreadsheet, drawing, presentation, database access tools), address book, calendar, PIM, and more

Distinct advantages of Novell SUSE include the SUSE common code base. All versions of SUSE Linux on all platforms are rooted in a single code base. This ensures the consistent use of common management tools and automatic updates across all Linux deployments—all versions on all hardware platforms.

How It Works

How Linux works could be the topic of an entire series of books. For most purposes, Linux is the engine that powers every service, application, or interface being discussed. Image generation, input/output, management of files, packet generation, security checking, and thousands more processes are enabled through the operating system. Figure 3.2 illustrates the high-level OS functions.

Figure 3.2Figure 3.2 The Linux operating system consists of a core kernel and multiple services.

A key concept in Linux is the package. In Linux, a package is a single file that contains a list of other files that are to be installed or included as part of a software solution. In addition to the list of files, a software package includes rules indicating interdependencies or other software packages that need to be installed for the solution to function properly. In Linux, these packages are usually in the form of text files and are open for viewing and access. The ability to create complex solutions by assembling collections of packages is a key element for Linux flexibility.

A particular Linux distribution is defined by the unique collection of packages that are configured by the distributor. Often, a single installation package predetermines what other packages are to be installed and automatically proceeds through the installation process. For example, the difference between a Red Hat distribution and a SUSE distribution is the collection of packages that have been configured to run on the Linux kernel by each distributor.

Linux is very flexible in that anyone can define a custom configuration to install only the desired packages. A Linux operating system can be configured with just the packages required for it to function as a web server, or the bare minimum set of packages to function as an identity server. Custom Linux packages can be configured to create organization-specific applications or department-specific processes.

In simple terms, Linux is a high-performance kernel engine that can be configured to power any software vehicle. It might run a desktop, a firewall, a database, a file server—or any combination of these processes and more. Built-in at the engine level are excellent mechanisms for security, file management, memory management, I/O, processor management, device management, and more. Linux distribution vendors can provide preconfigured Linux solutions, or you can configure your own based on your needs and environment.

Implementation Overview

Installing Novell SUSE Linux (Enterprise or Desktop) is intuitive and straightforward using the standard preconfigured options. Depending on your preference, you can use either the graphical user interface or the console-based text mode. Research has found that administrators new to a system prefer the GUI initially, but the flexibility and speed of console mode is often preferred after the system has become familiar.

To install SUSE Linux, you simply insert the CD-ROM and restart the computer. A start screen is displayed, which gives you the option to proceed automatically using GUI YaST or manually in console text mode. SUSE YaST (Yet another Setup Tool) is one of the clear advantages of the SUSE distribution, providing a powerful collection of installation and management tools.

SUSE Linux performs all standard installation procedures, including hardware detection, driver configuration, selection of network resources, and peripheral support. Linux supports hot plugging, which recognizes newly connected or installed hardware and automatically makes it available for use.

SUSE Linux also provides multiple boot options, including the use of a Linux boot manager that allows you to select one of several different operating systems prior to booting. This can be valuable if multiple configurations are stored on one machine, or if the need exists to alternate between operating systems; for example, Windows and Linux. You can also boot Linux from the network if desired, making it possible to secure workstations and more tightly control the operating system.

The de facto GUI standard for Linux and Unix is the X Window System (X). X is the basis for advanced and excellent graphics with the added advantage of being network- (not machine-) based. Applications running on one machine can display results on another machine or be controlled by a user remotely as if they were local. GUI-based Linux administration and management utilities are as intuitive, easy to use, and as visually useful as any available in Windows.

Linux can be flexibly configured and includes all the necessary networking tools and features for integration into all types of networks. Configuration files can be modified and applied without bringing down the server—this is a major Linux advantage, as it provides advanced configuration and control flexibility.

From this general Linux overview, you can see that many of the early barriers to Linux adoption have been eliminated. Installation and device detection are as good as any available. Flexibility for customization is unsurpassed, as are management, control, and configuration.

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