Every once in a while, you get the opportunity to work on something that is as improbable as it is fun-that’s exactly the case for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for the Raspberry Pi.
Yes, we actually took the enterprise grade, 64-bit, Linux operating system that is used around the world to support mission critical workloads in financial institutions, air traffic control centers, manufacturing centers, and high performance computing centers – and put it on a $35 credit card-sized computer.
There are several reasons why we did this. First, it was a matter of serendipity. We noticed that the processor on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B was a Broadcom BCM2837 64-bit A53 ARM processor. So theoretically, much of the work needed to enable this processor in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) had already been done as part of the SLES for ARM project. Second, since over 10 million Raspberry Pi units have shipped, we saw an opportunity to introduce SLES to a lot of people who did not already have experience with SUSE Linux. Third, we thought that it would be really a cool way for our field team to demonstrate SLES at trade shows. And finally, we did it because it looked like a lot of fun!
We also had encouragement from Eben Upton, CEO of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. He was very supportive and helpful with details like getting permission to use the name “Raspberry Pi”.
Despite all the work done to enable SLES for ARM, there was still a lot of additional work to be done. We needed to package SLES in a way that would be familiar to people who already had experience with the Raspbian OS on the Raspberry Pi. SLES for the Raspberry Pi is based on the upstream kernel used for SLES for ARM and has a common code base with all architecture supported by SUSE Linux Enterprise. The unique architecture of the Raspberry Pi required some special adaptations. For example, the Engineering team had to devise a way to use uboot to provide an EFI boot environment. There were other adaptations and patches to get things like the integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth working. Everything we did was up streamed and shared with the community.
SLES for the Raspberry Pi provides many standard SLES capabilities such as using the btrfs for the root filesystem. We chose to use the ICE Window Manager as the default for the Pi due to the somewhat limited memory resources on the Pi. Because there have been several ARM enhancements in the latest levels of gcc, you should use gcc-6 instead of gcc for compiling programs. Not all SLES capabilities are enabled in this release of SLES for the Raspberry Pi, we simply couldn’t get to everything in this release (Docker).
SLES for the Raspberry Pi requires registration to download patches and updates. We offer a free, one-year, self-service registration for SLES for the Raspberry Pi that is provided when you download it from http://tinyurl.com/slespi. If you are not already a SUSE Linux customer, you will need to create an id before you can download SLES for the Raspberry Pi. You will use the same email address when you register your copy of SLES for the Raspberry Pi as part of the installation process.
SUSE is not providing commercial support for SLES for the Raspberry Pi. Any questions should be posted to the Raspberry Pi forum at https://forums.suse.com/forum.php We will also provide a quick start guide to help new users set up SLES on the Raspberry Pi.
We really hope that you enjoy this opportunity to have some fun playing with SUSE Linux Enterprise on the Raspberry Pi. The feedback we have gotten so far from the SUSE field team has been very positive and we are already making plans to improve SLES for the Raspberry Pi in the future. We look forward to hearing about your experiences.
Have lots of fun!