Innovation

Raspberry Pi and Linux take on enterprise with SUSE support for the $35 computer

The growing use of Pi boards by business has led SUSE to offer commercial support for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for Arm running on the Pi.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • SUSE is offering commercial support for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for Arm running on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.
  • An increasing number of $35 Raspberry computers are being used in key systems on factory and shop floors.

A decade ago the thought that a $35 computer could run key systems on a factory or shop floor would be unthinkable.

Yet today that is exactly what is happening in an increasing number of businesses, which are finding ways to tailor the versatile but sub-$40 Raspberry Pi computer to their needs.

The growing use of Pi boards by business has led SUSE to begin offering commercial support for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for Arm running on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.

"A number of large companies decided to use Raspberry Pi-based monitoring solutions in their industrial manufacturing operations," said Jay Kruemcke, senior product manager at SUSE. "These customers chose the Raspberry Pi for many reasons, but low cost, wide availability, and widespread familiarity with programming the Raspberry Pi topped the list."

SEE: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+: An insider's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Uses vary widely, from automatic monitoring of robotic screwdrivers to inexpensive shop floor computers where workers use a touchscreen to flag problems with a manufacturing line, such as lack of parts or machine failure. These emerging applications are on top of the longstanding use of the Pi for digital signage, as well as network monitoring and IT monitoring, with SUSE expecting uses to balloon even further.

"After this announcement, we will probably hear about many new ways to use SLES on the Raspberry Pi," said Kruemcke.

The Pi was originally created with the goal of encouraging people to learn about computers, and Eben Upton, co-creator of the board and CEO of Raspberry Pi Trading, says the board's increasing use by business complements these core aims.

"We welcome industrial use of the device, as it helps further our goals of reaching more people with the tools, content and educational programs they need to prepare for the jobs of the future," he said.

Raspberry Pi boards are finding an increasing role in industry and third-party products, helping to push sales of the Pi to close to 18 million. Last year saw the release of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 (CM3), which packs the same 1.2GHz, quad-core Broadcom BCM2837 processor and 1GB memory used on the Pi 3 Model B onto a slimmer and smaller board suited to being built into electronic appliances.

The latest Pi board to be released, the Pi 3 Model B+, is also designed to make it easier for third-parties who want to build around the Pi, with the modular compliance certification for the board's dual-band wireless LAN allowing it to be included in end products with significantly reduced compliance testing.

What's next for SUSE and the Pi?

In addition to adding commercial support for SLES on the Pi, SUSE has released a version of SLES for Arm 12 SP3 that fits on a Raspberry Pi SD card. The operating system's image has been reduced to 630MB to suit IoT infrastructure, but the Pi will have access to all the packages in SLES for ARM, which can be added post installation.

The new image boots into a lightweight graphical desktop and includes Wi-Fi, HDMI, Ethernet, and GPIO pin support by default. As with the earlier SLES for Arm image released for the Pi, the OS doesn't support audio, 3D graphics, Raspberry Pi touchscreen, or camera by default.

SLES for Arm was released for the Pi back in 2016 and previously only had support from the community, but will now be available with 12 x 5 or 24 x 7 support from SUSE.

Pricing for the officially supported OS will be released in the next couple of weeks, but SUSE is offering a 60-day free evaluation period to try out the supported OS on the Pi.

Kruemcke says that future releases of SLES for Arm for the Raspberry Pi will broaden the I/O support and allow for network installation of the OS on a Pi without having to use an SD-Card image, as well as adding support for other 64-bit Raspberry Pi hardware, such as the Compute Module and the Raspberry Pi 3 B+.

pi3-0.jpg

SLES for Arm runs on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.

Image: Matt Richardson mrichardson23@gmail.com

Read more about the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+

    About Nick Heath

    Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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