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Novell Upgrades SUSE Linux Appliance Toolkit

Combined with Novell Cloud Manager, the toolkit options for building workloads as virtual appliances, strive shorten customers' path to the cloud.

Novell has upgraded its SUSE Appliance Toolkit for building workloads as virtual appliances to be sent off to the cloud. When combined with its Novell Cloud Manager, "the two together shorten your path to the cloud," said Michael Applebaum, Novell's director of appliance solutions.

As one of three major Linux vendors, Novell is repositioning itself as an independent supplier of vendor-neutral software for computing in either a public, such as Amazon's EC2, or behind the firewall in a private cloud.

With its updated Appliance Toolkit 1.1, an appliance builder can adapt a version of SUSE Linux Enterprise System 11, strip away unneeded parts until there is just enough operating system, package it with an application and format it as an Amazon Machine Image to run in Amazon Web Services' Elastic Compute Cloud.

SUSE Linux Enterprise System is about to become available as a Linux option in EC2, where a simple server can be fired up at a rate that will be announced by EC2 administrators "within days," according to Applebaum in an interview. Red Hat Enterprise Linux when commissioned to do a workload on EC2 commands 22 cents per hour. A plain vanilla Linux server is only 8.5 cents per hour.

With the Novell toolkit, choices of operating system configuration and application settings can be made and the workload finished as an AMI "in minutes rather than days" for deployment to EC2, said Applebaum.

Novell has its Linux expertise built into the toolkit and now it's broadening its capabilities by varying the format into which a software appliance may be cast. In addition to AMIs, it can generate appliances in the Open Virtualization Format or OVF, which means they can be sent to different destinations operating under different hypervisors. A host running either VMware's ESX Server, Microsoft's Hyper-V or Citrix Systems XenServer can recognize the OVF file and reconstruct it in the hypervisor's own preferred virtual machine format. Users of OVF could send their virtual appliances as workloads to either Microsoft's Azure cloud or to the Verizon Business' cloud based on ESX Server.

In addition, the toolkit adds supports KVM, the open source hypervisor created by Qumranet, now part of Red Hat. In the past, Novell has shied away from direct support of KVM in favor of open source Xen, a hypervisor that supplies the base code for XenServer. KVM, however, is backed by IBM as well as Red Hat, and has won growing favor with open source developers, who like its tight integration with the Linux kernel.

The toolkit makes use of Studio Onsite, an on premises version of Novell's Studio, a web-based appliance creation tool with 85,000 registered users launched in July 2009. Studio Onsite allows an appliance builder to start with a minimal, JEOS version of SUSE, or just enough operating system, and add to it, or a full version of SUSE Linux Enterprise System and strip it down.

The toolkit supports PXE for the booting an appliance over a network; assembly of logical disks from physical disks using LVM; the import of existing AutoYaST scripts, or commands that activate an appliance in a remote location; and import of KIWI scripts that trigger the building of a clone of an existing appliance or other automated build.

The 1.1 version of the Novell toolkit comes out nine months after the toolkit was launched on Jan. 26. The pricing announced at that time was $100,000 for large enterprise users of SUSE Linux or independent software vendors packaging their products as cloud workloads.

The toolkit can be used to prepare virtual appliance that can be handed off to Novell's Cloud Manager, a product announced earlier this month, noted Applebaum. Cloud Manager introduces a workflow to be followed in deploying an appliance and a cost structure that can be used to calculate projected costs over planned time of use.

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