At the Gartner Data Center conference yesterday, Novell Inc. announced its second-generation real-time Linux operating...
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system: SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time 10, aka SLERT.
The previous version has been generally available since last fall, and according to Moiz Kohari, vice president of engineering within Novell's Open Solutions Group, is installed at more than 100 customer sites, including an increasing number of Wall Street financial services firms.Real time equals better response time
Real-time operating systems have traditionally been used as the foundation for applications like flight control, simulation, data acquisition and process control. But increasingly, financial applications like databases, feed handlers, algorithmic trading applications, and very large clusters that require time synchronization need the guaranteed performance of a real-time operating system, Kohari said.
Compared with time-sharing systems that dominate enterprise computing environments, a real-time operating system is distinguished by deterministic performance, explained Gordon Haff, principal analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H. "A traditional time-sharing OS tends to be optimized around characteristics like total throughput," Haff said. "But with a real-time OS, it's almost all about responding to an event within a specific amount of time."
Novell SLERT includes the following core functionality:
- Application isolation, such that no other process or thread will impact the performance of a critical application. "We shield an application by isolating resources and providing it to a specific process," Kohari said. Resources might include CPU, memory, or enabling network quality of service (QoS).
- Priority inheritance – the notion that a high priority process trumps a lower priority process. Traditional time-sharing operating systems cannot make similar claims.
- Integration with key real-time tools, such as Concurrent Computer Corp.'s NightHawk debugging and analysis tool.
- Integration of the latest OpenFabrics Enterprise Distribution 1.2.5, enabling support for InfiniBand and 10 Gigabit Ethernet. "We see high-speed interconnects being highly leveraged across the data center," Kohari said.
It's also more expensive. Available now, a yearly support subscription for SLERT 10 is priced at $2,500 per server, compared with the $350 to $1,500 that Novell charges for its standard Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server distributions.
Linux a real-time fit?
Illuminata's Haff said that the advent of real-time extensions, plus the general performance improvements of commodity x86 hardware, have combined to make Linux a viable platform for applications that need "real-time-ish" features.
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