SUSE releases new version of secret weapon

SUSE Studio offers public cloud, mainframe appliance building

Virtual appliance users are going to want to take note: the new version of SUSE Studio rolls out this morning, a release that will deliver custom made machine images not only to x86 machines, but also public cloud and mainframe platforms. SUSE Studio 1.2 also marks the end of the separate SUSE Appliance Toolkit product previously offered by Novell.

That sounds a bit more dire than it really is; the Toolkit was formerly the on-site version SUSE Studio, the Web-based appliance-generating tool from Attachmate's SUSE division that enables users to build SUSE Linux-based machines that can be installed on devices via disk image or USB stick, LiveCD or LiveDVD, or as a VMware or Xen guest image. Users can even test their images live on the SUSE Studio site, finding errors before deployment.

The Toolkit product was basically a software release that enabled developers to have the capabilities of SUSE Studio in-house. Now, however, the functionality of the Toolkit is rolled right into the current SUSE Studio release, so users can choose the manner in which they use Studio: online, or on-site, according to Sabine Soellheim, Senior Marketing Manager for SUSE's appliances and solutions incubator.

Soellheim explained in an interview this week that there will be two flavors of SUSE Studio: Standard and Advanced. The big difference between the two is the added capability in the Advanced flavor to deploy machine images on mainframe platforms--specifically, System Z systems. The choice of that platform was based solely on customer demand, Soellheim said.

All of the variations of SUSE Studio will also be able to directly deploy the custom images out on the public cloud, via Amazon's Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) service. This is a shift in the deployment pattern SUSE Studio's users have had for their finished images. In the past, Soellheim elaborated, the appliance images from Studio would be placed on virtual platforms driven by Xen and VMware. Presumably, if they were deployed in a utility/cloud system at all, the workload application images would be on private clouds.

"The bigger the company, the more hesitant they are to move into the public cloud," Soellheim said. Smaller companies, she added, are more likely to use public cloud platforms like EC2. With this conduit to deploy right onto EC2, SUSE is trying to catch some of those smaller companies who seem more interested than ever in deploying images.

The addition of the mainframe deployment capabilities stretches out the other end of the potential Studio userbase, moving up into higher-end platform deployments. When asked about other mainframes to come, Soellheim said that System Z was really the only platform which customers had requested at this time.

SUSE Studio, whether used on-site or online, will also have full access to SUSE Gallery, a public collection of about 3,000 ready-made appliances.

Today's release of SUSE Studio is part of a larger plan for SUSE, which is slowly shifting all of the SUSE product line for smoother enterprise deployments. Since SUSE Linux is pretty much completely commoditized now, the company is working on improving application engines for independent software vendors and tools to ease datacenter deployments, to name a couple.

That's not a big shift, mind you. Under the auspices of Novell, SUSE has always been focused on deployment issues. Now they seem to be tuning their approach, getting that focus down to a laser-like level as they work on specific platforms that are of interest to their customer base.

It will be interesting to see how this approach works... they seem to have the ease-of-deployment message firmly in place, even more so than Red Hat. SUSE Studio has always been a differentiator between the two Linux vendors, so the latest release should enable SUSE to set themselves apart even more.

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