SUSE serves up Linux kernel patching, live & hot

If there’s one thing that Linux needs to aid its march onwards it is (arguably) more enterprise robustness.

Actually, if there’s one thing that Linux needs for enterprise success it’s firms like Microsoft stating that it loves Linux, but we’ve already experienced that epiphany, so what else can we hope for?

Openly open source German softwarehaus SUSE reflects the need for enterprise critical tech in its latest moves which see it expand its portfolio of business-critical computing infrastructure software.

The goals here is to provide so-called ‘workload predictability’ for enterprise users.

In terms of actual product, the company is offering SUSE Linux Enterprise Live Patching for IBM Power Systems and SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time 12 Service Pack 3.

What is live (hot) patching?

Using live patching (sometime called hot patching), sysadmins can apply patches to a Linux kernel without rebooting the system. Applications keep running during updates because the patching is independent of the application running on the Linux kernel.

It’s that easy then i.e. you just turn live patching on do you? Well no, exactly. Attempts at live patching Linux have been around for some years, but the fact that SUSE live patching has now been certified for IBM Power Systems and for SAP HANA is some evidence that this current generation of patching works effectively, at the enterprise level.

According to Forrester’s Richard Fichera, “Early versions of Linux hot patching has been around for several years, most notably in a company called Ksplice, acquired a few years ago by Oracle. But the real change happened earlier [in 2016] when SUSE declared that its hot-patch capability, kGraft, previously in limited availability, was now in GA, suitable for all production workloads.”

These offerings are part of SUSE’s software-defined infrastructure and application delivery products. SUSE says that customers are demanding live patching as it helps them improve business continuity and lower costs by reducing downtime, increasing service availability and enhancing security and compliance.

A working example

“The live patching function on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is al­most invisible: it just runs and there are no reboots,” said Hans Lenting, IT architect for SVHW, a government service organisation in the Netherlands that runs a large number of interconnected applications to support important municipal services. “It enables us to apply major maintenance and security patches with no downtime. Live patching is a huge benefit for the hypervisor layer, which we need to keep ‘in the air’ for as long as we can. Without this, we would be faced with bringing down all 40+ virtual machines each time we needed to apply critical patches – at least once a month.”

SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time 12 SP3 is an open source real time operating system with process and task prioritisation and scheduling.

This latest release ships with an updated real time kernel for what we could define as advanced application workloads that require precise timing and synchronisation.

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