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SUSE Linux and enterprise Raspberry Pi

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Raspberry Pi single-board computers are wildly popular with makers, kids, and anyone who likes hands-on computing. But, in enterprise business? Industrial sites? Not so much. Or, are they? At SUSECon in Nashville, Tenn., SUSE executives revealed that three customers are already deploying SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) on Raspberry Pi computers.

To be precise, these companies are all using Raspberry Pi Compute Modules. This is a Raspberry Pi 3 in a form factor that’s designed for industrial applications,

The first customer, Knorr-Bremse, is a German manufacturing company. This business has old equipment with no built-in monitoring. It’s using a SLES-powered Raspberry Pi device to track what its gear is doing. Not bad for a 1.2GHz ARM BCM2837 processor with a 1GB RAM and  4GB eMMC Flash device instead of an SD card.

SUSE can’t reveal the name of the other companies yet. But we know what they’re doing. The first is an automotive manufacturing firm. It’s deploying 8,000 Raspberry Pi units to monitor its production line for outages. A city will be using 4,000 Raspberry Pi units outdoors to monitor water-levels and environmental conditions.

Let there be no doubt about it. The Raspberry Pi is much, much more than a toy.

Besides Raspberry Pi, SUSE also supports selected systems on chips (SoC) from AMD, Ampere Computing, AWS, Broadcom, HiSilicon, Marvell/Cavium, NXP, Rockchip, Qualcomm, and Xilinx with SLES for ARM 15.

In fact, SUSE is also building supercomputers with ARM processors using SUSE Linux Enterprise High Performance Computing. A supercomputer with ARM chips? Yes. SUSE explained the compute power doesn’t come a single core, but from the sheer mass of ARM cores — up to 69 — in a single processor. This, in turn, can be used as the foundation for Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) and GPUs so that ARM-based supercomputers can work efficiently on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Of course, SUSE isn’t ignoring the bread and butter of its Intel customers. SLES now supports Cascade Lake Intel Xeon scalable processors.

Raj Meel, SUSE Global Product Marketing Manager, also explained how SUSE has been working with Intel to optimize SLES with Intel Optane persistent memory. This is a solid-state high-performance byte-addressable memory device, which resides on a memory bus. It bridges the gap between traditional DRAM and SSD storage. It’s used to both accelerate in-memory databases and to help spin off virtual machines (VM) faster. SUSE currently supports Optane in SLES  15 and 12 Service Pack 4. It’s also been deployed in SLES for SAP Applications.

The latter serves as an example of just how much better high-end system performance can be with persistent memory. SUSE claims SAP HANA databases can restart from a cold stop at a rate of 12.5-times faster than from SSD. When your business can only tolerate a minimum of down time, that’s impressive.

SUSE also remains a mainframe mainstay.  While IBM may have acquired Red Hat, SUSE is moving full speed ahead with improving SLES for z Systems and LinuxONE 12 and 15 mainframes. 

New features include:

  • Pervasive encryption support for data at rest (encrypting data before being saved on storage) with Z14 CEX6S crypto card support and for data in flight (encrypting data before being sent on a network) with kernel services exploit Z14 cryptography hardware
  • Support for SUSE OpenStack Cloud for z/VM and KVM for managing Z resources through RESTful API that interacts with z/VM.
  • Support for Cloud Foundry Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) on Z for a containerized implementation on Cloud Foundry components on Z

When it comes to hardware support, from the smallest Raspberry Pi to a hulking mainframe, SUSE is a Linux leader.

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