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Thread: Mission critical OpenSuse server?

  1. #1

    Question Mission critical OpenSuse server?

    Perhaps this is a bit silly question, but I was wondering if anyone is deploying OpenSuse for "a certain level of mission critical" web server, and would like to share experience?

    By "certain level of mission critical" I assume:

    - Updates as patches to currently installed packages only, ie. no package upgrades unless manually requested
    - Occasional quick reboots for critical kernel updates allowed (say, once a month).
    - Specific software selection required: lighttpd (1.4.19 or newer), PHP 5.2(.10) and 5.3, Postgres 8.3.4 (or newer), Sun's Java 6.
    - Server used to host professional services, ie. not a home, or intranet/office web/file/samba/blah server.

    Having used OpenSuse before, but never deployed on such a server, I know that the requirements ARE there, especially in that official software selection is not as ancient as on Debian or CentOS, which is very important, and that there are patch only updates via zypper.

    Still, as far as I gather, OpenSuse is not really a favorite server OS among (dedicated) web server users, and I was wondering why is that?

    Is anyone here deploying OpenSuse in such a "critical" environment successfully willing to share their experience?

    I understand I can probably get more "mission critical" with SLES, and I am considering it, but I'd like to start with OpenSuse and see how it goes, because I am quite capable of maintaining a server.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    goldie NNTP User

    Default Re: Mission critical OpenSuse server?

    > Still, as far as I gather, OpenSuse is not really a favorite server OS
    > among (dedicated) web server users, and I was wondering why is that?


    CAVEAT: I have never deployed or maintained "a certain level of
    mission critical" web server...so, i have no experience in doing that
    BUT, there are some things (imo) you need to consider:

    - the normal lifetime of any particular openSUSE version is TWO years
    from release date to no more security patches or updates!
    cite: http://en.opensuse.org/SUSE_Linux_Lifetime

    - since about 10.0 it has been very difficult to mostly impossible to
    upgrade from one version to the next....most all of the 'gurus' here
    recommend a format reinstall with /home on a separate partition so
    your 'stuff' gets kept...and the upgrade method is officially
    unsupported! cite: http://en.opensuse.org/Upgrade

    - on any day, at anytime an update might be released which causes your
    machine to no longer work as expected!
    cite: http://forums.opensuse.org/search.php?searchid=1164737

    - there was a time, long ago that SuSE was a 'company' in Germany
    which released software when it was ready to be released...and, that
    meant as stable and dependable as a small group of folks could make
    it.....and, when released it was 'done' until the next time a new
    version was "ready"...as far as i can tell the last of those releases
    was either 9.3 or 10.0, since then openSUSE has been 'sponsored' by
    Novell and versions have been released on a SCHEDULE that had nothing
    to do (imo) with stability or dependability...it is just a date
    certain that a new number would be used...the experience of new
    version problems got progressively worse from 10.1 though to 11.1

    - today, openSUSE is the bug smashing grounds where Novell allows us
    of the "openSUSE community" to hammers out the kinks and then, when
    something is 'ready' they release a new, commercial SLED/SLES version,
    which is then supported for (what?) five or more years...(sorry, i
    can't find the support map on the Novell Site....heck, i can't find
    ANYTHING on the Novell site in a reasonable amount of time)

    i'm sitting on a home machine connected to the internet and no other
    boxes, and i feel my machine is important enough to me that i want it
    both stable and dependable, and so i'm still on 10.3 and considering
    what i'm gonna do when i must move in just a few months because it
    will be no longer supported....i'll probably go to SLED 11 or CentOS,
    or debian, or slack, or or or

    on the other hand, YOUR millage may vary..you may like the idea of
    being forced to either update every six months to a version 'seasoned'
    for more than six months, or every two years to an, unseasoned, brand
    new experience..

    AND, if you wait a bit eventually someone will come along and tell you
    they operate a huge server farm and have had a 99.999% uptime rate
    with openSUSE 11.1, when they do, get their street address and go have
    a look for yourself.

    --
    goldie

  3. #3

    Default Re: Mission critical OpenSuse server?

    Thanks for your input.

    I'd very much like to deploy OpenSuse because I think it has the optimal age of officially supported packages in stable. The lifetime of 2 years is more than acceptable.

    For our needs, we require Java 1.6, PHP 5.2, soon 5.3, and Postgres 8.3 as mission critical services. In addition to that, I'd like to harden the server with AppArmor. SELinux is disgustingly difficult to manage, and I'm not sure how good a friend I'd find in grsecurity. Also Xen, in the beginning our server will be deployed as a Xen guest, and I believe OpenSuse is at home here.

    This and many other things accumulate for me to prefer OpenSuse above CentOS/RHEL or Debian. Ubuntu is really out of the question, and I am counting days before our current Gentoo powered server says kthnxbye because glibc and some other packages are increasingly becoming required by other updates which I'm holding off even on the staging server. If anyone ever used gentoo, they know how big the can of worms called Glibc Update is, especially when handed a can opener called New Python version.

    So I guess to me it boils down to using one of:

    - CentOS hacked with unofficial PHP 5.2/5.3, Postgres 8.3 packages and hope nothing breaks.
    - OpenSuse with officially supported apps we need.
    - SLES as the more enterprise friendly variant of OpenSuse.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Mission critical OpenSuse server?

    So long as you have stable package selections to begin with, and you don't update (or if you do, check through the update list very carefully), I don't see why you couldn't run openSUSE on a mission critical server indefinitely (that is to say, until the server is no longer needed or becomes obsolete).

    A lot would rely on your expertise in managing a server though. The community forums, while good for most people, certainly aren't designed to provide mission-critical support. Online documentation is sporadic in quality (in some areas it is excellent, while in others it is non-existent).

    If you did want some kind of "official" support for the server, you could buy theboxed version of openSUSE from Novell. That actually provides you with 90-day installation support from Novell. You could even think of it as a test bed for possibly running SLES in the future; see how well their support is, how well the product holds up, etc.
    My personal philosophy:
    The only way you won't find something is if you stop looking.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Mission critical OpenSuse server?

    If you are really serious about 'mission critical' you should be going for the Enterprise Server and an appropriate support package.

    I don't think openSUSE will let you down but you won't get access to the support you might need if something went wrong. If you look at the monthly statistics you will see that the average time to answer queries on most subforums on this forum is over 24 hours - not really what you want in a crisis.

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    Default Re: Mission critical OpenSuse server?

    Depends on how critical is "mission-critical". An e-commerce site's idea of critical is different from a information site's idea of critical. You haven't told us how long the site can afford to be down in case of problems. If it's in the matter of minutes rather than hours, perhaps you need hardware redundancy.

    There's no doubt that Linux will chock up uptimes of months or even years if there are no disrupting factors, like kernel updates. If the support period of 2 years suits you, and you are capable of patching and resolving sysadmin issues on your own, then openSUSE makes a fine server.

    I understand how you feel about RHEL/CentOS. I have no problems with their update support. Only problem is for some packages the versions are so prehistoric. I too am using third-party provided PHP packages.

    @john_hudson: I don't know that the average time to answer on these forums is a good measure for mission support. First you have to remove all the queries relating to setup, new hardware, copying to new system, programming questions, etc. Presumably those kinds of issues would have been resolved before deployment. As for the real emergencies, like RAID1 broken how do I reassemble, that depends on the expertise of the maintainer. And I've seen that some of those questions never get answered on the forum, which makes it far worse than 24 hours. But for sure if you pay Novell, or a qualified geek, to be on hand to help, if it is out of the depth of the maintainer, then you can lower the time to resolve.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Mission critical OpenSuse server?

    Thanks for all your input, folks!

    I guess I cannot know whether OpenSuse is stable enough for me until I deploy it and try it out. At least, I can afford doing that, and switch to SLES if I am continually unable to fix potential issues myself. I'm not new to server administration.

    Perhaps I should have asked a different question:

    Are you deploying OpenSuse in situations that you consider "mission critical", and can you describe your experience?

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    Default Re: Mission critical OpenSuse server?

    Possibly the best qualified to answer that question is user @Chrysantine
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    Default Re: Mission critical OpenSuse server?

    Quote Originally Posted by caf4926 View Post
    Possibly the best qualified to answer that question is user @Chrysantine
    If she see this!?
    Why's that

    Well I run a few hundred servers of which about 20 can be classified as "ultra mission critical" (where-as them going down would cost considerable amount of money) and another 50 or so can be considered "really bad" if they did (customers would effectively lose the service completely or at least disrupt as some segments would fall).

    They're all in a closed network and running a mix of openSuSE 10.3 and 11.1 on HP's DL series of rack servers, most of them are 2.33, 2.66 and 2.93 Xeon Dual/Quad Core setups - most them still running x86 for certain hardware and software compatibility reasons. There's not much magic to them, they run a pretty simple high-availability setup that reports their status, SNMP for gathering information (as it's a closed network, it's quite safe) and I have a commercial program that compiles the information for me and alerts when something breaks (which 99 out of 100 times means a hardware failure)

    The only trouble so far I've had with openSuSE as a server has been that on some machines a kernel update has failed to create a new initrd that contains all the necessary drivers (in this case the raid driver) - fixing it was pretty trivial and didn't take much time. Since it was during an allocated maintenance period, it wasn't even that bad.

    I can only suggest that if you roll out mission critical platforms, make a VM out of the machine after you've installed it, snapshot it and drop any updates/changes on it - then see how they perform and roll out the same changes on the actual production machine if you need to do so at all.

    Oh and we run openSuSE on all our web servers and company file servers too without a hitch. Never been broken into so far, although we've hardened them a bit.

    If you got any questions, just ask - and buy HP servers :>

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    Default Re: Mission critical OpenSuse server?

    Quote Originally Posted by CanOfWires View Post
    Are you deploying OpenSuse in situations that you consider "mission critical", and can you describe your experience?
    I manage some servers running openSUSE. Stability is not an issue at all. As with pretty much any distro, Linux is rock solid. I have encountered issues with one or two things breaking due to updates. For example once a squirrelmail update contained syntactic errors, which were quickly fixed, I must say. I have had to be careful with ocfs2 updates because they once pushed out an update which required updating all the servers in the cluster simultaneously and then rebooting, something they would not have done in SLES. And the latest 11.1 release contained a show-stopper kernel bug so I had to hold off the upgrade to 11.1 until that was fixed. But all in all, I would continue to use openSUSE. Partly because openSUSE packages are modern enough to cope with software I am asked to install (these are education servers), partly because of the wide range of software available, reducing the need for me to roll my own and then having to track security fixes for those.

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