Novell Delivers Real Time

For some industries, “fast” isn’t fast enough. The promise of a real-time operating system (RTOS) is predicable response time, every time. It’s a promise that Novell is aiming to deliver with its SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time 10.

Novell’s latest release comes at a juncture when real-time elements are rapidly being included in the mainline Linux kernel as open source competitors, old and new, ramp up their offerings to challenge proprietary RTOS.

“SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time 10 contains all of the latest open source community’s real-time code, enterprise-hardened by Novell,” Kerry Kim, product marketing manager for SUSE Enterprise Real-Time, told

Novell has also gone beyond what the mainline kernel currently includes, providing additional controls designed to ensure reliable predictability and control for real-time operations.

Kim said while the latest kernel contains some real-time features (such as cpu sets), it does not yet contain preempt_RT, the patches that make previously uninterruptible sections of the Linux kernel preemptable, as well as some other real-time features.

“There will always be a need by customers for a separate real time platform, if you consider the evolution of open source Linux operating systems,” Kim said.

Though the enhancements that Novell is rolling into its own RTOS are not yet in the mainline Linux kernel, Kim said the improvements are all available under an open source license. As a result, any open source vendor could potentially role out a similar effort to what Novell is doing.

Novell’s principal competitor in the enterprise Linux space, Red Hat, has not yet
formally introduced its own specific real-time version, though an effort
is underway

“Our principle competitor at this time appears to be scale-out technology alternatives, of the gross over-provisioning of resources to ensure QoS for variable demands,” Kim said. “When Red Hat eventually launches a product, we will compete with their [real-time] offering. We do not see embedded RTOS providers competing head-to-head in the markets that we are targeting.”

For now, Novell is targeting the financial services sector, though Kim said there is interest into moving into the telecommunications carrier space as well, where it will compete with vendors like MontaVista Linux. MontaVista recently rolled out its latest Carrier Grade Linux
release with a number of real-time enhancements.

Jim Ready, CTO and founder of MontaVista, told that he doesn’t see Novell’s current RTOS offering as being competitive to his own. However, Ready said he is glad to see companies such as Novell using real-time Linux for the desktop and server, as it will speed the adoption of Linux in the industry.

According to Ready, MontaVista has pioneered real-time and has contributed all of its work back to the kernel, so Novell’s announcement is complementary to MontaVista’s efforts.

While certain sectors such as carrier and financial services may see already see a benefit from taking advantage of a RTOS, there is still a broader addressable market that could potentially benefit.

“We are looking at extending the low-latency benefits and predictability of SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time from the application level to the broader datacenter as a whole,” Kim said, adding that Novell is looking at integrating SUSE Linux Enterprise
Real Time with fabrics, messaging middleware, networks, and other tools.

“It’s one thing to make sure that your mission critical app is responsive, predictable, and reliable,” Kim said. “But how do you make sure your whole datacenter is responsive and reliable as well, especially in a world where resources are fluid and automated provisioning becomes more prevalent, and businesses increasingly compete on agility?”

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