The scope of the software appliance market just got bigger today with the latest product announcement from Novell: now independent software vendors (ISVs) will have full-stack access to tools that will enable them to create their own software appliances from start to finish.
The new initiative from Novell is the SUSE Appliance Program, which the Waltham, MA-based company hopes will shorten ISV sales cycles and allow ISVs to more quickly push their apps to whatever platform is needed, be it physical, virtual, and even the cloud.
The Appliance Program is not a single tool, but rather a whole set of them, combined with targeted support from Novell for its customers to help the ISVs get on their way faster, according to Matt Richards, Sr. Program Manager of the program.
The toolset is extensive, with some tools significant enough to warrant their own release announcements, such as SUSE Studio Online, an easy-to-use web-based appliance building tool. Also included in the program is the SUSE Linux Enterprise JeOS (Just Enough Operating System) and full support for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 deployed on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).
According to Richards, there is also marketing support for ISVs available, such as channel matchmaking and other benefits of Novell's ISV PartnerNet Program.
Novell wants ISVs to be able to hit the gorun running with the Appliance Program, which is why they are also allowing ISVs to redistribute any software appliance made in the program for free, as long as the application is being done as a proof-of-concept or evaluation. Richards emphasized that this will alloow ISVs to very quickly get a feel for how fast they can set up a software appliance, and how easy it will be to work such a product into their current business model.
Participating in the Applicance Program will not limit ISVs on what their business model has to be, either. When an appliance is ready for final distribution, Novell will be work with program partcipants to deliver the product no matter what pricing model the ISV wants to use, whether it's software as a service, unit by unit, or end-user volume, to name a few.
Nor will ISVs be limited by platform. With SUSE Studio Online, they can choose to build and configure apps for a variety of physical and virtual platforms. With the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for Amazon EC2 tool, ISVs will quickly be able to push their app out into the cloud.
Beyond just a faster way to deploy applications within full software stacks, which is useful enough on its own, Richards highlighted the support and testing benefits of distributing through software appliances. Applications can be tested and built for platform compatibility in SUSE Studio, leaving ISVs to just have to focus on use-case and other forms of software testing. Patching and updating becomes a lot simpler with appliances, since the new patch or version only has to be certified to a smaller set of criteria.
Thus far, Richards reported, ISVs who have been participating in the alpha phase of the Appliance Program have been impressed. Upwards of 3,000 appliances per week have been created in the alpha phase, from approximately 8,000 accounts.
Richards is convinced that appliance-driven models will make a big difference in IT.
"The appliance model will drive a new way of doing business for ISVs," he indicated.
SUSE Studio is available now free of charge. SUSE Linux Enterprise JeOS is also available now and support will be priced through individual OEM contracts. SUSE Linux Enterprise for Amazon EC2 is available through Amazon EC2 (registration required) and is priced at $19 a month and $0.10 a minute.