SUSE announced recently that it managed to take its enterprise-grade platform, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), and marry it with the Raspberry Pi. Fancy that–a platform created to support massive workloads and mission-critical services running on a $35 computer.

You can download a 60-day evaluation of SUSE Enterprise Server 12 SP2 for Pi (login required). Be sure to check out the quick start guide. If you have trouble with subscription codes for SUSE Enterprise Server 12 SP2 for Pi, check out this forum thread.

SEE: Raspberry Pi: The smart person’s guide (TechRepublic)

Why did SUSE do this?

Beyond the idea that they could do it, SUSE wanted to find a path of least resistance for introducing SLES to people who had yet to experience the platform. It’s also an incredibly handy way for the SUSE field team to work with their product at trade shows.

And of course, because this is SUSE, the company posted all the information you need to make this happen (also, SUSE could be an acronym for SUSE Understands Source is for Everyone).

This all makes sense from a SUSE point of view, but what about from a data center point of view? Is it possible that SUSE has stumbled upon something radical that could change the very nature of how the data center is handled? Granted, I’m not talking about data centers the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc.; however, consider the small to midsize data center. With a quick search, you can find Raspberry Pi projects that range from:

That list goes on and on. But now that SUSE has added an enterprise twist into the mix, imagine how that list might evolve to include:

  • Database servers
  • Multi-node clusters
  • Management systems
  • Mini SAP deployments
  • Micro/mobile data centers

With the advent of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 in the realm of Raspberry Pi, the platform that is so often linked with DIY projects and education now has a much bigger audience and offers a much wider spectrum of possibility.

This is not Raspbian

The main differences between SLES 12 for Pi and Raspbian, the official operating system for Raspberry Pi, are:

  • Raspbian uses a kernel modified specifically for the Pi, whereas SLES 12 for Pi uses the default SUSE Linux Enterprise kernel (upstream) for AArch64.
  • SLES 12 is the first distribution for Raspberry Pi to use the AArch64 instruction set.
  • SLES 12 makes use of a GRUB2 EFI binary, which is chainloaded to provide a graphical boot screen.
  • SLES 12 for Raspberry Pi uses the Btrfs as the file system for the root partition with compression enabled for better SD card performance.
  • SLES 12 for Raspberry Pi defaults to the ICE Window Manager for an easy to use graphical environment.

Other “features” include:

  • Enabled for built-in I/O, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, Ethernet, and GPIO
  • Includes GCC and other development tools
  • Packaged as an image, ready to be copied to an SD card
  • Free, one-year self-service subscription for updates and fixes

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 for Raspberry Pi requires the following:

  • Raspberry Pi 3
  • Minimum 8 GB SD card
  • USB keyboard/mouse
  • HDMI cable/monitor
  • <= 2.5A power supply

SEE: Choosing a Raspberry Pi OS? Here’s the definitive list (TechRepublic)

openSUSE to follow suit

If you’re not too keen on evaluation versions but you’d still like to give such a platform a try within your data center, there is a beta version of an openSUSE image now available. This is the Leap edition of openSUSE, so it’ll be stable, especially once it comes out of beta.

The data center in a box

The idea of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on a Raspberry Pi gives a whole new meaning to “data center in a box.” Of course such a device will not hold near the power of a standard data center server, but what they could bring in the way of flexibility and mobility makes SLES 12 for Raspberry Pi an incredibly intriguing option for the data center.

What do you think? Is there a place for such a combination in the data center? Share your thoughts in the article discussion.