How-Tos For Linux Appliances

Not everyone has the skills necessary to build his own Linux distribution.

Raleigh, North Carolina-based rPath is offering to help users build their own customized Linux distribution as an appliance. If you want to do it online for free, feel free.

The company originally launched a free rPath Builder Online service earlier this year. Now, it is launching its first major revision in a bid to equip ISVs that want to use Linux as their operating system base.

Instead of an ISV or an application vendor relying on a user with the necessary operating system, the Linux as an appliance model that rPath is pioneering enables ISVs to bundle their application together with the Linux operating system in a complete stack.

“ISVs don’t want to be the operating system vendor, with an open source operating system like Linux they don’t have to be,” rPath CTO founder Erik Troan told

The first version of rPath Builder enabled users to build distributions as ISO images for CD/DVDs, as well as VMware images that would run inside of the VMware virtualization player.

rPath Builder 2.0 extends the distribution paradigm by allowing users to build Live CDs as well. With a Live CD, end users boot and run the whole appliance from their media drive without the need to physically install to a hard drive.

The new version also makes managing and deploying an rPath-built appliance easier with the rPath Appliance Agent(RAA). With RAA, users can control setup, configuration and updates for the rPath-based Linux appliance.

“With rPath Appliance Agent we’re trying to make it easier for developers to provide a pre-built system and make it easier for people to build Linux appliances,” Troan explained. “Instead of logging in and editing a config file, RAA is the initial thing that comes up when you load the system and you can connect to it over SSL.”

RAA is a starting point for building Web consoles and it can be branded by ISVs such that the end user won’t know that it rPath Linux.

Though the rPath approach to building Linux appliance may serve to remove barriers for ISVs and others, it’s the appliance approach itself which may present the biggest obstacle to rPath adoption.

Troan wouldn’t disclose how many people are currently using rPath. Some well-known applications are already offering rPath Linux-built appliances.

Among them is open source VoIP pioneer Digium, which is currently offering its Asterisk Business Edition as an all-in-one Linux appliance. SugarCRM also offers an rPath Linux appliance; database vendor Ingress today announced its Ingress Database appliance.

Troan is betting that, as the market for virtualization matures, so will the concept of virtualized appliances with customers.

“These industry efforts are making our selling job, and objections [such as] ‘do I need a virtualized software appliance’ and ‘I don’t get it,’ easier and easier every time we go out.”

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