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SUSE Virtualization Story

Michal Svec

By: Michal Svec

June 27, 2013 7:58 am

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Over the past decade, SUSE has been a pioneer in helping to develop and commercialize enterprise virtualization technologies. This is the first post in a series outlining what we have done in the virtualization space and what we are planning to do—and there is a lot!

Let’s first look at the history: in June 2006, SUSE was the first Linux provider to deliver an enterprise-class Xen implementation. Back then it was Xen 3.0.2 included in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10. With the release of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 in March 2009, SUSE was also the first enterprise Linux provider to include KVM. Shortly after, it became fully supported and today is an essential component in our virtualization story.

Today, SUSE pursues a heterogeneous, multi-platform hypervisor approach that gives our customers maximum choice, flexibility and value. As a host, SUSE includes both leading open source hypervisors, KVM and Xen, with every subscription of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, giving enterprises a powerful way to virtualize workloads. And all that is with unique price efficiency. There is no virtual machine counting in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server: you can run as many virtual machines as necessary. There is also no need for auditing to determine whether or not your subscription will allow you to spawn another server or two. You just do it.

Meanwhile, we have worked with our partners to ensure that SUSE’s implementation of the KVM and Xen hypervisors operates as a perfect host for workloads running on their offerings. For Microsoft Windows environments we did this by developing a bundle of paravirtualized network, bus and block device drivers for both KVM and Xen, called the “SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack.” These drivers are fully WHQL certified and have been used as our hypervisors have undergone the Microsoft’s SVVP testing to ensure their proper interoperability. These efforts guarantee that Microsoft will honor your support contracts when running Windows workloads as a VM on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Enterprises using the SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack can run fully virtualized Windows workloads on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with near-native performance.

But the hypervisor is only a part of the story; there is much more in the SUSE virtualization story. We could summarize the SUSE virtualization strategy in a few key points:

  1. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as virtualization host
  2. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server perfect guest strategy
  3. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server in the cloud
  4. SUSE Lifecycle Management story
  5. Unique SUSE Linux Enterprise Server price efficiency

We talked about the host part above, yet there is one more component worth mentioning: operating system-level virtualization, or soft partitioning, where SUSE Linux Enterprise Server includes a technology called “Linux Containers (LXC).” This allows for resource sharing and control on the operating system level, providing most advantages of “regular” virtualization while being more lightweight and efficient, specifically when it comes to I/O operations.

Moving from the host to the other parts, let’s take a quick peek into what SUSE Linux Enterprise Server provides, with more details later.

SUSE works hard to have SUSE Linux Enterprise Server run virtualized as a guest on top of every major hypervisor or cloud infrastructure – perfectly. We call this goal our perfect guest strategy. Obviously, we prefer to have SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as the host. However, we understand some customers want to use their existing infrastructure or even operate a multi-hypervisor datacenter, so we work with major hypervisor vendors—including VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and Oracle—to optimize SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to just run perfectly as a guest in their environments. Two examples:

  • As a result of our close relationship with VMware, not only did we tune SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to run well on vCenter, but with every VMware vCenter support subscription, vCenter customers get SUSE Linux Enterprise Server subscriptions to run on the VMware hosts for free.

  • In Microsoft’s Hyper-V environment, we just take advantage of our close collaboration agreement with Microsoft to test, tune and optimize SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on Microsoft Windows Server operating systems, including their latest Microsoft Windows Server 2012. We include the latest version of Microsoft’s Linux Integration Services as an integrated part of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, which means that there is no need to download these components from Microsoft’s website, and that updates can be delivered to your virtual machines through the normal update channels.

SUSE in the cloud is related to our perfect guest strategy, but reaches even further (and higher). If we see clouds as “just” enhanced versions of virtualized environments, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is a natural fit, not only as a guest, but also often as a host platform. We target all cloud environments ranging from public clouds like Amazon EC2 or Microsoft Azure to hybrid clouds and private clouds, where we particularly favor the major cloud infrastructure platform OpenStack, which is the base for our own offerings. There is a lot to write about clouds and cloud infrastructure, so let’s keep that for some later article.

With cloud, however, I want to consider the lifecycle, above and around the base operating systems. With SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as a stable ground and platform to build on, and with tools for basically any task related to the operating system, there are tasks which require even more enhanced and elaborate tools for managing a multitude of systems. Here we are getting to the triumvirate of SUSE Studio, SUSE Manager and SUSE Cloud. The easiest way to describe what this tool set does is to follow the lifecycle of a workload. First, you need to create it and build it; that’s what SUSE Studio is great for. Then you need to deploy, patch, update and monitor, and SUSE Manager does exactly that. What’s more, both SUSE Studio and SUSE Manager do all that whether the workload is physical, virtual or even for the cloud. Nice, isn’t it? The final step in the workload lifecycle is to actually run it somewhere. You could easily use virtualization as outlined above with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as a host; or you could go further ahead and take advantage of the more advanced and flexible infrastructure—cloud. Here SUSE Cloud comes into play to address all those needs for cases where “regular” virtualization is not enough, and you need more options and flexibility and want to easily grow your business and the infrastructure together.

With that, we outlined how SUSE sees virtualization and what we have in that space and beyond, so let’s stop here for now and leave the details for the future articles. Stay tuned and let me know if you would be interested in any specific area of SUSE virtualization!

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Categories: Enterprise Linux, Expert Views, openSUSE, Server, SLES on Azure, SUSE Cloud, SUSE Linux Enterprise, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack, SUSE Manager, SUSE Studio, Virtualization

Disclaimer: As with everything else at SUSE Conversations, this content is definitely not supported by SUSE (so don't even think of calling Support if you try something and it blows up).  It was contributed by a community member and is published "as is." It seems to have worked for at least one person, and might work for you. But please be sure to test, test, test before you do anything drastic with it.

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