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Intel Xeon E5 Heads to Linux

By Sean Kerner (Send Email)
Posted March 9, 2012


Linux server users won't have to wait long to benefit from the new Intel Xeon E5 processor, announced earlier this week. Hardware vendors and Linux operating system vendors alike are ready to leverage Intel's latest server chip architecture.

"The latest Intel server is significant in that it delivers higher density with low power consumption," Jim Totton, GM and VP, Platform Business Unit at Red Hat told InternetNews.com. "In addition, the plans to support PCI-e 3.0 is important future-proofing so that customers will be able to take advantage of and fully realize the benefits of direct I/O with the data intensive workloads that are rapidly being deployed."

Both Red Hat and SUSE are certified on multiple hardware vendor platform for the Intel E5, including servers from HP and Dell.

Jeff Carlat, director of Marketing, Industry Standard Servers and Software at HP, told InternetNews.com that HP has already added ProLiant Gen8 severs (BL460c Gen8, DL360p Gen8, DL380p Gen8, ML350p Gen8, SL230s Gen8, and SL250s Gen8) into its supported server lists for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11.

Kevin Noreen, director of Dell Systems Management Marketing also told InternetNews.com that Dell has been working closely with Red Hat and SUSE in the ramp-up for certifications for Dell's 12G Intel E5 platform.

"Because of our tight collaboration with Red Hat, SUSE and Intel, all shipping device drivers on 12G are native to both RHEL and SLES," Noreen said. "That has always allowed Dell to maintain a simplified approach to deployment and implementation of Linux on x86 architectures, including the E5 platforms."

The road toward Intel E5 support is one that started long before this week's official announcement from Intel.

"In addition to having several Intel engineers working with Red Hat, both companies extensively test code as it is being developed," Red Hat's Totton said. "So, by the time a system partner receives a beta or GA version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, there has been a considerable amount of debugging that has already occurred. This allows our system partners to focus on peripherals and value-added software."

There are also some specific optimizations that both the hardware and software vendors have been able to achieve for Linux running on the E5.

"Building on the foundation of open source contributions made by both companies, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server provides an enhanced and tuned Linux kernel that supports very large environments with performance," Mark Longwell, director, Alliance Relations and OEM at SUSE told InternetNews.com. "Advanced support for aspects of the hardware architecture such as NUMA (non- uniform memory access) help drive up throughput in the memory subsystem and enhance scalability."

One of the key new features in the Intel E5 is the new Data Direct I/O, which delivers more LAN bandwidth. Red Hat's Totton noted that the performance teams from Red Hat and Intel spent a lot of time testing and characterizing direct I/O, then tuning and optimizing it with various mission critical workloads.

SUSE's Longwell noted that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) adds capabilities such as robust support for low-power states, power-usage profiles and other features of the Linux kernel and hardware platform to Intel's E5.

"To add flexibility and room for innovation with regard to storage resources, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2 supports using swap-over NFS (network file system) over IP and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) to pass storage traffic over shared Ethernet connections with LAN and management traffic," Blackwell said. "Finally, advanced resource-management capabilities allow for fine-grained, centralized control of hardware resources."

For the hardware vendors, Linux is a crucial market for its Intel E5 based server deployment, particularly in the cloud.

"20 percent of Dell mainstream servers run Linux today--and a much higher percentage in cloud environments," Noreen said "It is extremely important that we meet the needs of our Linux install base."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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