An installation or driver kit from SUSE is simply a method to deliver the latest SUSE Linux Enterprise related drivers or other software in a packaged and supported bootable image. Installation kits can be used for any of the following reasons:
- To update storage drivers, which require very early loading in the installation and boot process.
- To provide hardware enablement for new hardware with an existing (already released) SUSE Linux Enterprise service pack.
- To fix problems that might arise in specific customer installations in order to increase stability on a specific hardware platform or to provide updates/fixes/workarounds for that system.
- To provide a PTF (Program Temporary Fix) that supplies kernel updates or fixes. An installation kit might contain one or more PTF images. (I’ll address PTF images and YES Certification in a future blog—read it here).
Systems requiring or using an installation kit can be YES Certified just like any other system.
Since this blog is about YES Certification, I would be remiss if I didn’t say this right up front: if you are looking for YES Certified hardware, the best place to begin your search is at https://www.suse.com/yessearch/. This is where you’ll find the most current YES bulletins.
In the past, installation kits were called a kISO (kernel ISO or a bootable installation image), so you might still hear them referred to that way today.
Sometimes a specific hardware configuration requires an installation kit in order to function correctly and to be fully supported, thus making it necessary to use the installation kit during a YES Certification. A customer implementing that hardware must also use the installation kit for full support.
If an installation kit or kISO is used during a system’s YES Certification, there should always be a configuration note on the bulletin stating that the kit was used. The bulletin should also include a URL where the installation kit can be downloaded. For example: “Installation Kit: The <filename.iso> installation kit is SUSE SolidDriver Program compliant. This installation kit must be downloaded and used to start the SLES installation. To obtain the installation kit, go to: https://drivers.suse.com/<fullURL>.”
As you see in the sample configuration note, the download location for an installation kit is usually https://drivers.suse.com/. This highlights the fact that the kits are endorsed and fully supported by SUSE. Usually, these kits are openly available for anyone to download. However, it is important to remember that they are typically designed for a specific system, hardware platform or hardware manufacturer’s product line.
SUSE customers who install SUSE Linux Enterprise on a system that was certified with an installation kit should always use that installation kit as a baseline install medium for that specific hardware platform. When the next service pack is released, the updates provided in the installation kit are usually rolled into that release. At that point, the installation kit should no longer be needed. Hardware vendors should then re-certify with the newest service pack to be considered YES Certified.
An installation kit is certified to work on a specific hardware configuration, which is outlined in the Tested Configuration on the YES bulletin. Hardware differences can and do cause incompatibilities between the installation kit (OS, drivers, configuration settings, etc.) and the hardware. I can list example after example where a minor update to a hardware platform changed the compatibility of the installation kit. For example, x86 processor vendors often release socket-compatible processors one model after the other (in twos); meaning, they will release one processor and then 6 to 9 months later release an updated processor family (different processor) that is ‘socket compatible’ with the first processor. This usually forces the hardware manufacturer to make changes to their platform and/or firmware to support the new processor. As a result, an installation kit designed and tested for the first released processor might not work with the second one.
We hope YES Certification, YES bulletins and the specific information in these bulletins help you make better decisions when buying new hardware. Our goal is to support you early in the process so that you have fewer hardware-related headaches later as you purchase servers and workstations.
You can find more information about SUSE YES Certification at https://www.suse.com/partners/ihv/yes/. You can search for YES Certified hardware at https://www.suse.com/yessearch/. And, you can review previous YES Certification blogs at YES Certification blog posts.