Getting started with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for VMware

VMware now provides free licensed copies of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. IT pro Rick Vanover tells you how to start using this offering.

VMware announced last year that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) is now available for vSphere for free. This is a boon to customers and VMware. For customers, it is a Linux platform that is covered with their active VMware support and subscription services (SnS) contract for free with licensed vSphere installations. For VMware, this fully accomplishes its mission -- that is, for the operating systems running on the hypervisor need to be less Microsoft oriented. Dollars, competition, and strategy aside, the SLES for VMware operating system is effectively a slightly forked SLES 11 distribution with a few branding and naming tweaks to be a VMware-branded OS.

Some runtime options are removed. One cornerstone example is the ability to make the SLES for VMware host function as a XenServer hypervisor. The other notable example is that VMware tools are not pre-installed (at least they are not visible in the vSphere Client), yet the inconvenient CTRL-ALT is not needed to navigate out of the virtual machine console within the vSphere Client. One oddity is that the SLES for VMware OS is not a supported OS to run vCloud Director (vCD); Red Hat is the only supported OS for vCD.

The SLES for VMware DVD installation is a download from Novell, even though officially SLES for VMware is distributed and supported exclusively from VMware. The installation is rather straightforward for SLES for VMware; the first screen is shown in Figure A. Figure A

I'm a Windows guy who only uses Linux when I have to, but I think having a free Linux distribution available as part of the virtualization stack is a nice option. There are plenty of free distributions available, but SLES for VMware has support, which makes a difference in terms of governance in larger IT environments.

I don't know anyone using SLES for VMware in production. Linux administrators are very passionate about their distributions and taking another one or migrating to a new distribution because it is free or supported by VMware (in this case) is usually not reason enough to switch.

I am not sure if it impacts Linux server application support situations. For example, if an application's vendor support is that it is supported on "mainstream" SLES, does that disqualify SLES for VMware? That's a question for each individual application vendor.

If you have gone down the SLES for VMware route, what are your impressions of the OS? Post your comments in the discussion.