With the unveiling of a comprehensive service pack, Novell will bolster virtualisation, clustering and desktop capabilities in its Suse Linux product family. Available June 2, the Suse Linux Enterprise 11 SP1 (Service Pack 1) is optimized for IT infrastructures, including physical, virtual, and cloud, Novell said.

The service pack contains upgrades to the following Suse Linux Enterprise products: Server, Desktop, High Availability Extension, Point of Service and Virtual Machine Driver Pack.

The service pack offers the updated 2.6.32 Linux kernel, which takes advantage of RAS (Reliability, Availability and Serviceability) capabilities in Intel's Xeon 7500 and 5600 processor series, such as MCA (Machine Check Architecture) recovery and improved MPIO (Multipath IO) hardware support. MCA allows recovery from uncorrectable memory errors that typically would bring down a server, said Michael Applebaum, Novell senior solutions marketing manager.

New support also is featured for floating point and crytopgrahic features, offering better performance and security, Novell said.

Virtualisation enhancements in the service pack provide Suse Linux with the latest Xen 4.0 hypervisor with improved virtual input/output performance. Support is featured for KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) open source virtualisation. Also included are Linux integration components in Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor.

"We worked with Microsoft among other partners to optimise Suse Enterprise Server as a guest on Hyper-V," Applebaum said. Suse Linux, he said, "will be the highest performing guest OS on Hyper-V."

Xen 4.0 helps with high-performing and mission-critical environments, Applebaum said. "We deliver [Xen 4.0] as an integral part of the OS," Applebaum said.

For high availability, the service pack backs metro area clusters and simple node recovery with the ReaR (Relaxed and Recover) disaster recovery framework. Administrative tools are featured including a cluster simulator and web-based GUI. ReaR, Applebaum said, is "essentially an open source backup solution that can protect a running server and essentially take a snapshot of it that can be redeployed in the case that the server comes down for some reason."

Suse with its metro clusters high availability capability is adding an important backup capability, stressed analyst Jean Bozman, research vice president at IDC. "They're increasing the distance between the server and the server you might fail over to," Bozman said. This is important to guard against data loss because of natural or manmade disasters, she explained.

With its high availability capabilities, Novell is accommodating a trend in which businesses are moving from Unix to Linux, Bozman said. "There are more important workloads coming to enterprise Linux platforms," said Bozman.

For the desktop, improved audio and Bluetooth functionality is enabled along with the latest versions of the Firefox browser, OpenOffice.org application suite and Evolution email client, which features improved interoperability with Microsoft Exchange. The service pack also features patches issued since the release of Suse Linux Enterprise 11 last year.

Novell officials believe rival Red Hat must play catch-up to Suse in areas such as clustering and file system capabilities. "They're catching up to where we were last year," Applebaum said.