Looking to expand its base of SUSE Linux customers, Novell is launching a program to help ISVs and solution provider partners assemble SUSE-based appliances that can run natively on x86-based systems or within virtual environments.
This week Novell also debuted the first major component of that program, a scaled-down version of SUSE Linux Enterprise called JeOS (just enough operating system) for ISVs to use as a starting point for developing appliance applications.
Software appliances combine operating system and application software into pre-configured packages that can be installed faster and cost less to support, said Nat Friedman, chief technology and strategy officer for Novell's open-source products. Under the SUSE appliance program Novell will work with ISVs to develop their applications in an appliance format and configure SUSE Linux Enterprise, including the new JeOS version, to maximize the application's performance. Friedman said that benefits ISVs who may be experts with their vertical application, but may lack Linux experience.
Appliances create more opportunities for solution providers to sell to customers that lack the in-house technical expertise to work with complex application deployments. "This is a huge empowerment for the ISV," Friedman said. Another benefit, especially for resellers, is that appliances eliminate the need for prospective customers to painstakingly configure a platform for evaluating an application. "It's a multi-step process for a customer to install an application just for an evaluation," Friedman said. With appliances, "it's a single file they can load on a virtual machine."
"This gives us the ability to optimize for our customers exactly the solution that fits their needs," said Vijay Prasanna Pullur, CTO at Pramati Technologies, an India-based ISV that develops a range of products including portal software and Web 2.0-based social networking and retail platforms. Pramati has signed up for the appliance program and is working with Novell to get it's products certified for SUSE Linux.
The rapid adoption of virtualization technology for servers is a major demand driver for software appliances, Friedman said. IDC projects that the appliance market will nearly reach $700 million in 2011. The JeOS software includes a "paravirtualized kernal" for optimizing appliance performance in virtualized environments, according to Novell. The scaled-down operating system will support multiple virtual image formats including VMware, VMDK and Xen, with a version for Microsoft's Hyper-V planned for later this year.
JeOS, built on the same code base as SUSE Linux Enterprise, is currently available as beta software and will be generally available later this year. During the next few months Novell will expand the appliance program by adding automated tools for building and testing application appliances, and guidelines for customizing SUSE Linux.
Friedman wouldn't disclose targets for how many ISVs Novell hopes to enlist for the appliance initiative. But he said the vendor is certifying ISVs for SUSE Linux at a rate of some 100 every month -- in addition to the 1,100 already certified at the start of 2008 -- and he said all are candidates for the program.