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SUSE Targets U.S. Markets With Service Pack

Linux distributor SUSE Linux said it is addressing major market shifts in hardware and storage with a free update to its recently released Enterprise software.

But more than that, the No. 2 worldwide Linux distributor is looking to gain more market share in North America in order to keep pace with its biggest rival Red Hat . The latest upgrade follows a $210 million acquisition proposal for SUSE by Novell .

The German company, with U.S. offices in Oakland, Calif., has released its Service Pack 3 for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 8. The upgrade is designed for hardware running on the x86, Itanium2 processor family, AMD64 with support for 32-bit and 64-bit systems of various manufacturers, IBM iSeries, IBM pSeries, IBM S/390 (31bit), and IBM zSeries (31 bit and 64 bit).

First released in November 2002, Enterprise Server 8 has been a boon for SUSE. The company boasts wide vendor support including compatibility with products from AMD, Borland, Computer Associates, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Fujitsu Japan, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, NEC, Progress Software and SAP.

The company said its secret sauce is its SUSE-optimized kernel 2.4.21, which now features an integrated and improved scheduler, asynchronous I/O, and multipathing storage access. In contrast to the previous kernel (2.4.19), which managed up to 600 physical hard disks, the new kernel is capable of managing up to 2,000 physical hard disks.

"Maintenance customers of SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 8 receive these enhancements as part of their contract -- simply by downloading the service pack from the maintenance Web," said SUSE LINUX general manager Holger Dyroff.

With support for more hardware, SUSE has also grown as an asset for Novell, while continuing to turn more heads in U.S. server rooms, according to analysts.

"For SUSE, they have success in Europe but have tried many times to do well here," IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky told internetnews.com. "It's very hard to break into the U.S. market and this third time, Novell can help since the billion dollar concern has the Cambridge Technology consultants who will bring SUSE in where it is appropriate. This gives Novell a red box and stronger Linux presence and SUSE gains market share in the states."

With the increased importance on Storage Area Networks (SAN), SUSE said the Service Pack has improved detection of SCSI-3-based devices. The combination of Network Attached Storage (NAS) and NFS-based file systems helps the software now support mounting of up to 1,024 file systems. Service Pack 3 also supports the latest IBM zSeries hardware. The company said the crypto hardware of z990 could now be used with its SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server. The improvements allow for less expensive SAN disk storage based on the Fibre Channel Protocol in connection with IBM S/390 and IBM zSeries mainframes.

SUSE also said it wanted to be the first operating system to support IBM eServer BladeCenter JS20 -- the latest member of the IBM eServer family. As such, Service Pack 3 includes improvements such as support for large, powerful hard disk drives that can be bundled with redundant, reliable access paths (multipathing). With the improvements, SUSE said up to 27 hard disks could be bundled in a multiple device and vertical scaling of up to 64 CPUs per machine. The latest x86 hardware is also now supported with improved hyperthreading and Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) , numerous updated device drivers, and new PCI device detection lists.

The Service Pack also addresses security of the administered systems with the improvements to SUSE's Linux Audit System (LAuS). SUSE said its upgrade is also prepared for compliance with the DII COE (Defense Information Infrastructure Common Operating Environment) directive that is used for rating the suitability of IT products for deployment in federal departments in the U.S.

Kusnetzky said the compliance is important if SUSE wants to make more inroads into U.S. businesses.

"In the past, it has been a marketing issue and they did not have the right people to promote the company. They had some small penetration but it has improved since they have a new staff and partnerships with IBM and Novell."