The Linux appliance market for the most part has been more about building
appliances than managing them. Today, rPath is taking care of both.
The Linux appliance vendor is making announcements on both the
building and maintenance of Linux appliance fronts. The rPath Appliance
Platform extends the manageability of the Linux appliance for a more complete
lifecycle, though rPath’s founder and CEO admits there is still much to be
The new rPath Appliance Platform expands on the rPath Appliance Agent (RAA),
which was rolled out last year. With RAA, users can control setup, configuration and updates for the rPath-based Linux appliances.
The Appliance Platform provides for wider manageability and deployment
options than RAA does on its own. Billy Marshall, rPath CEO, explained that
the Appliance Platform provides a more complete post-creation lifecycle
experience for appliance developers and users.
The platform includes an
update service that lets users deploy or rollback updates. The new
entitlement service allows for the provisioning and management of licenses
for appliances. There is also a backup service in the platform that provides
automatic and scheduled backup for appliances.
The build side of Linux-based appliances is also getting help from rPath
with the release of rPath Builder 3.0.
The new version extends the
virtualization image capability that rPath Builder provides. Previously
rPath Builder provided VMware player images, but now it will do offer VMware ESX, which is VMware’s commercial product line.
Builder 3.0 also includes
VMware tools for images that provide specialized drivers and other tools
that go inside the virtual machine and improve performance and
In addition, rPath Builder 3.0 will produce both Xen and Microsoft VHD
virtualization formats. Marshall commented that rPath is not licensing the
VHD format from Microsoft but is just following the published
specifications. He added that VHD is provided as a part of Microsoft’s open
patent promise, which allows for use without fear of any sort of legal
intellectual property issues.
Though rPath has a head start in the Linux appliance market, Novell is about
to enter the market as well with its OpenSUSE KIWI effort.
With KIWI users can build their own OpenSUSE Linux custom
distribution with the future step according to Novell being a full robust
Rpath’s founder isn’t particularly worried about Novell’s entry into his
“The biggest issue Novell is going to face in attempting to enter this
market is that their business revolves around the general-purpose operating
system and the golden-disk model,” Marshall said. “What they do is
worthwhile and what anyone else does is inferior and not, quote, ‘certified.'”
“I think they’ll have a lot of internal strife putting control in the hands
of application developers as opposed to having control in their own hands of
providing a ‘certified’ operating system.”
Though rPath is expanding the Linux appliance model with the new
platform release, Marshall admitted that there is still more to do to make
it easier for both developers and users.
“We’ve got to continue to build in elegant management capabilities into the
platform,” Marshall said. “We’ve now built back-up in, for example this time,
but what about monitoring and call home and all those things that create an
experience that is truly turnkey for customers, and ISVs can be in control
of the experience without having to go and build specialized tools.
“There are lots of things we can do to make this experience more elegant and
more autonomous for the end consumer of the application,” Marshall added.
“We’re just at the beginning here.”