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Red Hat, Suse and Ubuntu for Workstations and Servers, Research Paper Example

Pages: 9

Words: 2450

Research Paper

Workstations and servers have becoming crucial elements of the business worlds, and in essence the internet. In order to effectively manage a workstation or a server, one requires the best file system available. Linux offer some of the best products when it comes to handling servers and/or workstations. Linux has been widely used in server environments owing to the security it offers (immunity to viruses) as well as its stability. Linux has gradually develop the use of its distributions on workstations. Three Linux distribution are known when it comes to offering server or workstation management; SuSE, Ubuntu Server Edition and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

Each of the distinct Linux distributions are identified by their technical variations in terms of the configurations of software packages and the manner of support for hardware configurations. Other important points of difference include security, availability of updates and package management. These intrinsic differences make each of the three Linux distributions uniquely suited for certain aspects of workstations and servers.

Red Hat, SuSE and Ubuntu

Before analyzing each of the distribution’s performance in terms of running servers and/or running workstations, it is important to understand the technical differences between Red Hat, SuSE and Ubuntu. It is important to note that the analysis provides for both distributions by SuSE; open SUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise

Feature Distribution
GENERAL
  Red Hat (RHEL) SUSE (open SUSE) SUSE Linux Enterprise Ubuntu
Maintainer Red Hat openSUSE project SUSE Canonical Ltd.
Developer Red Hat SUSE and Novell SUSE Linux Canonical Ltd.
Security Upgrades Unknown? 3 years 2-3 years –       9 month standard release

–       5 year LTS release

Originated From –       Fedora

–       Red Hat Linux

     
Target Market –       Workstation

–       Server

–       General

–       Desktop

–       Workstations

–       Servers

–       Mainframes

 
Cost Commercial Free of charge Commercial Free of charge
         

For the purposes of analysis, SUSE Linux Enterprise will be considered instead of openSUSE. The general features of the three distributions reveal that only two of the distributions (Red Hat and SUE Linux Enterprise are suited for networking and/or servers. For this reason their products and releases are commercial.

Feature Distribution
TECHNICAL
  Red Hat (RHEL) SUSE Linux Enterprise Ubuntu
File System (default) Xfs ext3 ext4
Init System (default) systemd systemd systemd
Desktop Environment GNOME GNOME –       Mainly Unity on GNOME

–       Alternative Unity 2D

       

(SUSE Linux Enterprise, 2015)

File Systems

It is important to understand the differences between the three file systems employed by each distribution. The following is a comparison of the technical features of each:

Feature Ext3 Ext4 XFS
Metadata Journaling ü   ü
Data Journaling ü    
Journal External ü   ü
Journal Internal ü ü ü
Sparse Files ü   ü
Access Control Lists      
Extended Attributes      
Dump and Restore ü   ü
Quotas ü   ü
Tail Packing      
Online Extend   ü ü
Offline Extend   ü  
Online shrink      
Offline Shrink   ü  
Copy on Write   N/A N/A
Defrag ü

(unstable)

  ü
Extended Attributes ü   ü
Posix-ACLs ü   ü
Support Status      
Maximum File System Size   16 TiB 8 EiB
Maximum File Size   2 TiB 8 EiB
Inode Allocation Map table   B+-tree
Inode Inline Data ü

sym-links< 60 chars

  ü
Dynamic Inode-Allocation-Map     ü
Blocksize Default   4 KiB 4 KiB
Blocksize Range   1-4 KiB up to 64 KiB
       

(SUSE Linux Enterprise, 2015)

Ext3 file system

Ext3 and Ext4 file systems has numerous advantages that make them suitable for use in workstation and server settings. EXT3 was an improvement of the ext2 file system, with the difference being ext3 supports journalin (SUSE Linux, 2015). The system is characterized by low write requirements which meant fewer erases and making it suitable for longevity of flash drives. Ext3 offers ideal database performance as a result of extended optimizations through the years. However, Ext3 is not suited for file servers as a result of two major weaknesses; firstly, disk snapshot are nonexistent. Secondly, deletion of data may result in complete loss of information as recovery is considerably complicated and difficult. However, one major advantage is the backward compatibility to ext2 file systems.

The ext3 file system has one unique feature that most journalizing file systems lack, storing both data and metadata. Other journaling system employ the metadata-only storage format where data is stored in a constant state while file system data is not always in this state. There are several modes for this alternative, with data integrity optimized in the data-journal mode. However, this mode journalizes both data and metadata, potentially making the system slow. Another alternative is a technique that journals metadata but ensures the integrity of data and metadata; data-ordered mode. Performance is maintained by the file system driver writing all data blocks to the disk before updating the metadata related to the blocks of data written (SUSE Linux, 2015). This guarantees uniformity in metadata and is the default mode for ext3. However, for optimal performance, the data-write back mode can be selected. This mode commits metadata to the system journal before writing it on main file system. However, there is one potential drawback with this mode; in the case of a system crash, upon recovery, old data can resurface.

Ext4 file system

The ext4 file system has been found to be effective in extending flash memory life. This is achieved through delayed allocation, which in turn also reduces fragmentation. This files systems also allows for larger files and volumes as compared to the ext3 file system. For this reason, this file system has been found to be more suited for solid state disks (SSDs) as opposed to the ext3 file system. Most of the ext4 file systems support a file system up to 50TB in size. However, ext4 tools are limited to a 16TB file size. This makes ext4 particularly suited for smaller file systems regardless of the number of logs generated within the system.

Ext4 file system suffers from a number of challenges with one of the major concerns regarding this file system is scalability. The ext4 files system only supports systems larger than 16TB (Raggi, Thomas, van Vugt, & Sican, 2011). A number of issues also require the frequently update of applications. Furthermore, data can only be committed to the disk through fsync calls. This makes the system considerably unstable as applications with inefficient use of fsync calls regularly experience data loss in the event a power surge or loss is experienced. There are a number of issues relating to software that has not been updated. Such software are prone issuing fsync calls while data overwriting goes on.  Just as the ext3 file system, the ext4 file system maintains backward compatibility; i.e. ext2 and ext3 files can be installed on an ext4 file system. This has been found to increase performance in certain situations.

Extended filesytem (XFS)

The XFS file system has a number of things in common with ext4; it employs delayed allocation to enhance the issues regarding file fragmentation. Delayed allocation splits the process into two.  The required amount of RAM is reserved for the pending transaction that is stored. XFS does not delays the decision of allocating the file system blocks for data storage. Write performance is increased by reducing the number of write events through delayed writing so that temporary data becomes obsolete and never recorded.

This system also does not support mounting snapshots giving better performance with larger files. Furthermore, it allows for resizing but the XFS volume cannot undergo the same process of shrinking. Since the XFS file system allows for continuous throughput of large files, it has been found to be perform better on a media file server. The file system depicts continuous throughput of up to 300MBpsThis file system ensures reliable and fast recovery of data by integrating guaranteed rate I/O, journaling and volume management. There is considerable administrative overhead that is mitigated by the system backing up file system while still using them.

Most of the available xfs systems have a maximum file system size limit of 500TB. The xfs file system is quite unpredictable and requires an isolated boot partition. Since the system is optimized for large files, performance with small files is considerably poor compared to the other types of system files. This makes this file system unsuitable for servers and databases with many logs, such email servers.

This system is also a journaling system and it logs changes before updating the original entries. This is critical in updating the system at the event of power loss. The system also mitigates information retrieval times by using the namespace manager. This manager allocates directory files using the B-tree indexing method to store information on the location of files. This makes retrieval much quicker and simpler.

The latest versions of the xfs file system distributed by Red Hat have the ability to minimize network traffic by using FS-Cache (Red Hat Enterprise Linux, 2011). This feature allows for the system to access a persistent local cache that it uses to cache network retrieved data on a local storage device. This feature minimizes the use of network bandwidth by satisfying user request locally. This is useful for data that has been attached over the network. The xfs file system has been found to be considerably different from other file systems; when the size grows performance is retained at relatively same levels. While other systems experience reduced performance as directories, traditional files and file systems grow or increase, the xfs file system experiences similar performance levels even with a database of millions of files.

The XFS system employs the data-write back mode which fails to consider data ordering by committing the data to the journal instead of the disk when writing, which usually happens prior to writing onto the main file system. This technique compromises data integrity by giving preference to a much faster process that only journals metadata.

One major drawback of xfs file system is the concentration on metadata integrity and ignoring data integrity. Delayed allocation compromises the security of the data in the event of a power loss (Red Hat Enterprise Linux, 2011). When information is delayed allocation of system blocks, it becomes vulnerable to loss when the system loses power supply. The system also performs best in high end computing systems because of its unique features, making considerably costly and a reserve of medium sized and large enterprises.

Another advantage that Red Hat has over SuSE Linux Enterprise’s ext3 file system and Ubuntu’s ext4 file system is the availability and type of server add-ons (van Vugt, 2013). Red Hat Enterprise Linux has an extended support add-on that provides overlapping release support and an extended support period of 24 months. This provides the client with more flexibility. Red Hat Insights allows the administrator to manage the file system environment, identify and resolve technical glitches before they affect business operations.

The Case for Servers

Server environments that employ Linux distributions usually require services such as proxy, routing, web (Apache), email, database, storage, DHCP, DNS, and NFS (network file system) are essentially used to provide other computers and users within a network with networking service (van Vugt, 2013). As such, multimedia and graphical elements are not employed in Linux networking environments for the purposes of conserving resources and mitigating potential problems..

Red Hat for Servers

Red Hat has been specifically tailored for use in high-end computer servers owing to the robustness of the system. One of the major advantages that it has over the other alternative is the extensive use of Red Hat by businesses. Owing to the fact that Red Hat accounts for 60% to 80% of market coverage, the number of applications certified to run on Red Hat are numerous. The availability of resources such as applications make Red Hat the most ideal for use in data-intensive servers. Ideally, the Red Hat distribution has been found to perform best with media file servers. Such servers require continuous throughput of data and large files.

The Case for Workstations

One of the main differences between employing any of the Linux distributions for servers and workstations is the number of users. Workstations generally denote a single-user environment. This assumes that the file system in question would not provide any sort of support services except for the single user within the system. This can be seen in the setting for networking optimization.

Red Hat for Workstations

Red hat possesses certain features that make it ideal for its use as a workstation file system. Some of the outstanding features include security, high performance, stability, scalability and robustness. Red Hat Enterprise Linux does not offer support for outage problems recorded on workstations (Red Hat Enterprise Linux, 2011). RHEL Workstation has been found to have other unique features such as built-in instrumentation, tuning and performance profiles to optimize performance and enhance scalability. System configuration and administration is enhanced by the Open MLI unified management tool. Containerization helps improve security by isolating applications to protect the system against malicious attacks as well as inadvertent interference.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The three Linux distributions all have workstation and server capabilities. However, they do not depict similar performances. One of the most notable difference is the superiority of the XFS file system over Ext3 and Ext4 by virtue of scalability. Red Hat employs the XFS system, making it suitable for servers that handle large files. The continuous throughput of large files makes Red Hat the best alternative for servers. Furthermore, this file system performs considerably better with media file servers. Ubuntu offers the best alternative for a workstation. This is largely owing to the ease of use associated with this Linux distribution. Its graphical and multimedia interface that is available on two alternative desktop environments, 1) mainly Unity on GNOME and 2) alternative Unity 2D

References

Raggi, E., Thomas, K., van Vugt, S., & Sican, C. (2011). Beginning Ubuntu Linux : Natty Narwhal edition. New York: Apress.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux. (2011). How to hoose your Red Hat Enterprise Linux filesystem. Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Retrieved December 4, 2015, from https://www.redhat.com/f/pdf/RHEL6_FileSystem_WP_5677547_0311_dm_web.pdf

SUSE Linux. (2015). SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP4. SUSE Linux GmbH. Retrieved December 4, 2015, from https://www.suse.com/documentation/sles11/stor_admin/data/sec_filesystems_major.html#

SUSE Linux Enterprise. (2015, May). Technical Information. Retrieved May 2015, from SUSE Linux Enterprise Server: https://www.suse.com/products/server/technical-information/#FileSystem

van Vugt, S. (2013). Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 administration : real world skills for Red Hat administrators. Hoboken: John Wiley.

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