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SuSE Delivers First Linux for 64-bit AMD Opteron

The 64-bit x86 Linux Race Heats Up

  • April 21, 2003
  • By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

When most Linux users think 64-bit computers they think of Intel's Itanium II--and why not? HP is making Itanium the centerpiece of its Linux plans and Red Hat and the UnitedLinux companies have all announced Linuxes for Intel's troubled server chip. Don't look now, but, thanks to SuSE, Linux users will soon have two current processors to consider for their 64-bit x86 computing needs: Itanium and AMD's Opteron.

Burdened with the unwieldy title of SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 for AMD64, Powered by UnitedLinux, SuSE is delivering the first Linux for the Opteron. They won't be the last, though. According to Jay Migliaccio, SuSE product manager, the UnitedLinux consortium will be announcing support for the chip this week, meaning at least three other Linux distributors--Conectiva, SCO, and Turbolinux will soon be able to deliver their own Linuxes for Opteron.

And, the operative word is "soon." Migliaccio says that SuSE's operating system, based on the Linux 2.4.19 kernel, will be shipping within a week of the announcement. Indeed, SuSE has already lined up eight distribution partners for SuSE 8 for AMD64 including Appro, a server clusters vendor; M&A Technology, a manufacturer of application specific servers; the longtime and well known Linux server provider, Penguin Computing; PSSC Labs, a provider of Beowulf supercomputers; RackSaver, a high-density, rack-optimized servers, blade servers and supercomputing clusters OEM; and Tempest Computers, a firm specializing in the design, assembly and integration of high-end, high-availability servers and high performance server clusters.

You might wonder how SuSE can forge forward so quickly with an enterprise-class processor for servers and workstations that AMD itself won't be officially unveiling until April 22nd. The answer is that AMD has been working hand in glove with SuSE since 2000 on bringing Linux to the Opteron. "AMD has worked closely with SuSE Linux to develop an enterprise-class operating system and development tools for AMD64," said Marty Seyer, vice president and general manager of AMD's Microprocessor Business Unit.

Of course, the real question isn't how they did it, it's how well will it will work. SuSE is sure that its distribution for Opteron will not just continue to expand SuSE Linux users' hardware choices-SuSE Enterprise Server will now be available on IBM's zSeries, pSeries, iSeries, Intel 32-bit designs, Itanium--but that application designers and network administrators will see immediate performance gains.

"As Migliaccio says, even without optimizing an existing 32-bit program for the new chip's architecture, "developers and users can expect to see a significant improvement boost simply by recompiling their applications with the operating system's 64-bit libraries. Even if gcc and make are mysteries to you though, Migliaccio assures users that their older 32-bit applications that run on SuSE Linux will run unchanged on the new platform.

That's not just SuSE talking. "SuSE has worked closely with us from the beginning on both our 32-bit and 64-bit efforts on the Opteron processor," said Dave Dargo, vice president, Platform Alliances, Oracle. "SuSE's leadership in being the first 64-bit Linux OS provider on the Opteron processor, combined with the availability of the industry leading Oracle9i Database on Opteron shows the desire of Oracle and SuSE to lower our customers' cost of computing while providing high performance, scalability and enterprise functionality."

According to Joe Eckert, SuSE VP of Corporate Communications, "SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 provides improved scalability for up to 64 processors and up to 512 GB of main memory. These characteristics make SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 an ideal computing cluster platform for 32- and 64-bit high-performance computing solutions and environments with advanced speed and scalability requirements. It will also come with the standard Linux server packages such as Apache, perl, MySQL, Samba and Sendmail" and "all necessary components for building C and C++ applications both for 32-bit x86 and 64-bit AMD64 code."

The new SuSE Enterprise Server will retail for $448. That includes four CDs, documentation, and the SuSE Linux Maintenance Program for one CPU for 12 months.

So, while Opteron may be new to you and the Linux world, thanks to SuSE, the Opteron is a high-end chip that will be in Linux business-ready systems from the get-go.

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