SUSE Unveils New Linux Version Optimized for Use with Azure Cloud
When Azure cloud users have run workloads using SUSE Linux in the past, they used the same SUSE Linux off-the-shelf products that are available to all IT users. Their workloads ran well, but they weren’t running on SUSE versions specifically honed to run on Azure.
That’s changing, as SUSE has unveiled a new Azure-optimized version of its SUSE Linux Enterprise 15 operating system, designed to increase Azure workload performance by leaving out non-essential code that users don’t require when running in the cloud.
The new version, called SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on Azure, is the first enterprise Linux kernel that’s been optimized for use on Azure, according to the company. That means that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 on-demand instances will run on a custom-tuned kernel for Azure workloads to provide enhanced performance and faster boot speeds, along with a decreased memory footprint, the company said.
“Customers can expect SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 to have measurable performance benefits, including a potentially 25 percent faster network throughput and a 23 percent reduction in average latency,” the company said. “By default, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 instances on Azure will run on this custom-tuned kernel, although customers have the flexibility to easily switch back to the standard kernel using the package manager, Zypper.”
Also included will be a range of tools and resources for cloud-native deployments that are part of the SUSE Public Cloud Module, such as the ability to manage Azure resources through a Linux command prompt. By providing an Azure-tuned kernel, customers and channel partners will have faster access to new and upcoming Azure features as they use and expand their cloud deployments, according to SUSE.
“We have been working with Microsoft for many years providing a great SUSE experience for Azure customers,” he said. “More recently, Microsoft approached SUSE about jointly optimizing the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) experience for Azure, and we were excited by the potential of what we could achieve together.”
By bringing out an optimized version that specifically targets Azure, it goes beyond simply supporting Azure and is instead truly optimized for use with Azure, said Tupling. “By removing unused components and tuning existing ones, we were able to achieve much better performance for our shared customers.”
That includes things like leaving out drivers for a 5.25-inch floppy drive, sound, graphics, joystick, modem, mouse and USB, which makes the application leaner and faster, according to the company. It also includes upstream improvements for how the Linux kernel runs as a guest on the Azure hypervisor, such as better support for Hyper-V as a host and networking improvements like SRI-OV. If a user discovers they need anything not in the SLES 15 Azure release, they can revert back to a standard Linux kernel to use the features that were left out.
“It represents joint development work,” Tupling said. “We’re making sure that customers who come to Azure get an Azure-tuned experience.”
KY Srinivasan, the general manager of Microsoft’s enterprise open source group, said the two companies have been working closely to ensure customers that SUSE Linux customers will have good experiences using Microsoft Azure.
“The new Azure-tuned kernel allows those customers to quickly take advantage of new Azure services such as Accelerated Networking with SR-IOV, Write Accelerator and other functionality on a cadence that aligns with the Azure engineering team’s release cycle,” said Srinivasan.
Good Strategy, Analysts Say
Daniel Bowers, an IT analyst with Gartner, told Channel Futures that SUSE moving to deepen its alignment with Azure is smart for the company.
“Enterprises that adopt Azure also tend to prefer Linux distributions like SLES for which they can get a support contract,” he said. “This SLES version, with tuned networking and aligned to Microsoft release cycles, shows how innovations across enterprise computing are increasingly driven by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure.”
At the same time, though, there’s a conundrum.
“The public cloud is a big opportunity for Canonical, Red Hat and SUSE to expand their Linux install base, but the outsized influence of the big public cloud vendors is also a threat for them; for example, companies are looking at using Amazon Linux in AWS in situations that might have used SLES on-premises.”
Another analyst, Stephen Belanger of IDC, said the SUSE-Microsoft joint efforts are another indication of Microsoft’s embrace of Linux to meet the evolving needs of its customers.
“For SUSE, this announcement builds off the SLE 15 launch back in June with a version fine-tuned for Azure workloads,” said Belanger. “SUSE has been clear with its multimodal approach, aimed at supporting customers wherever their workloads are running. In this case, customers running SLE 15 in the Azure public cloud are promised better performance, faster boot speeds and other benefits that should improve experiences.”
Channel partners can also see evidence in this announcement that SUSE is executing on its multimodal approach to support various deployments such as private and public cloud, as well as for the various delivery models being used today by customers, including on bare metal, virtual machines and containers.
“Customers running SLE 15 on Azure are promised an array of benefits, which should indeed improve experiences,” said Belanger. “Faster access to new Azure features is another advantage that should improve experiences for joint customers.”