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Novell helps ISVs put Linux, apps on a stick

Novell's SUSE software appliance effort aims to help ISVs bundle their apps with Linux and middleware to get them out easily and escalate VARs' value-added services.

VARs wanting to ease deployment or testing of new applications might take a look at Novell's new SUSE "software appliance" effort.

With its SUSE Appliance Program, Novell Inc. is trying to wring complexity out of new application installs by letting ISVs preload USB sticks or other portable devices with their own application plus SUSE Linux and associated middleware and databases as needed.

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The resulting "image" will deploy within minutes on the user's PC, Novell execs said.

A couple dozen ISV participants include Adobe Systems Inc., which is aboard with its Enterprise LiveCycle suite; Hewlett-Packard Co. with its Adaptive Infrastructure software; and Zmanda Inc., the open source storage player. Tech Data is the inaugural distribution partner.

The program makes sense for Adobe because it offers an easy way to get its software in the field. But it's also attractive for VARs, said Marcel Boucher, Adobe senior technical marketing manager. "It's not necessarily all about reducing complexity of installation but about people getting to build apps and solutions faster. And for VARs, that's a big thing," he said.

VMware Inc. offers a similar appliance program, but the ISV then needs to deal with the various OS and middleware vendors separately, Boucher said. Of course, for ISVs relying on open source Linux, that's not really an issue.

Still, Novell's focus is squarely on ISVs."The idea [for ISVs] is to set it and forget it," said John Dragoon, the Novell senior vice president in charge of partner programs.

While some traditional VARs relish solving complexities for customers and thus might look askance at a simple USB stick deployment model, Dragoon said the program should help them get more productive and bring more solutions to customers faster. VARs can add value and customizations once the software is deployed, he said.

Stacy Nethercoat, vice president of software for Tech Data Corp., in Clearwater, Fla., concurred.

"This lets you package up the apps and middleware you need. For VARs that takes care of a lot of the app dependencies they used to worry about. It's all pre-integrated and self contained, and the complexity of the install and deployment is way down," she said. That, in turn, will make it easier for a VAR to more fully leverage Linux. "There's a lot of interest in Linux but this opens it up and makes it more mainstream," she said.

It might even attract some of the more Windows-centric VARs into the Linux fold, said Nethercoat.

ISVs can download SUSE Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise JeOS from Novell's site and use its free SUSE Studio toolkit for building appliances. The popular MySQL database is also downloadable from Novell, but ISVs that prefer PostgresSQL or other databases can download those themselves for inclusion. IBM is another partner in this effort, so DB2 is fully supported, Dragoon said.

The appliance program is also "VM agnostic" so ISVs can pick whatever virtual machine technology is best for them. "We support all the formats. You build [your stack] once and configure it once and the only difference between a VMware and a Xen image is the button and the format. As OVF becomes more common, that will allow transport across hypervisors," said Matt Richards, senior program manager for the SUSE appliance effort.

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