Novell has been running a popular contest over the last few months that seeks to find the best software appliance built using SUSE Studio. They’re awarding the best submission with $10,000 (yeah, you read that correctly). It’s called the Disters Contest and our very own Jim Zemlin is one of the judges.
With more than 900 entries so far, we wanted to ask Novell’s Appliance Architect Peter Bowen about his favorite picks and how this contest maps back to Novell’s appliance technology and business strategy.
Q: So what are your favorite Disters Contest submissions so far?
Bowen: The chance to win $10,000 has attracted many entrants. Of the 900 appliances that have been published to SUSE Gallery, a couple of interesting ones involve social media:
Home ‘TweeT’ Home. This appliance has two concepts in it: the Home and the TweeT. For “The Home,” you need something on your PC that keeps you up with your daily life. But you also need your kids, your teen and other family members to share the PC. This appliance has just enough software to keep your work up, yet it allows you to create a menu to limit your kids to only certain options of the PC. The TweeT manages your family social media accounts. You want each member having separate Twitter log-ins for their respective accounts. This appliance lets you connect to Twitter, Facebook and other microblogging sites, and manages per-user basis log-ins.
Social Media Analytics Research Toolkit. This is an appliance designed for digital marketing professionals, social media optimization researchers and quantitative marketing practitioners who want to analyze and mine social media data.
There’s something for music aficionados, as well:
Manticore Live Drummer. This appliance allows you to play live drums on your computer with multiple mice and is intended to be used for home recording and in small studios.
Synthelos Linux. This is an appliance for music production environments that has all the applications you might need in a music studio or professional discographic label.
Q: Can you tell us about some of Novell’s latest work, specifically, on software appliances.
Bowen: Lately, we’ve been focused on updating our tools for developers to create, manage and deploy software appliances, particularly for the cloud. To that end, we released a new version of the SUSE Appliance Toolkit last month.
We’ve also been focused on providing developers with a destination to publish and showcase their appliances. In July, we launched SUSE Gallery. This is a place where developers can post their appliances and users can download and provide feedback on their favorite appliances. We’ve had over 900 appliances published so far in the SUSE Gallery, all available for everyone to test out using our online test drive and download.
Q: What technical requirements are customers prioritizing in the area of appliances?
Bowen: Customers are asking for three things: 1) A way to bring their appliances to the cloud, 2) Easier configuration and usability for appliances, and 3) More configuration options and enhanced features when building appliances.
We are working on addressing all of these requests, with many of these updates included in Version 1.1 of the SUSE Appliance Toolkit.
For the cloud, an ISV or enterprise can build SUSE Linux Enterprise-based machine images for Amazon EC2 directly using SUSE Appliance Toolkit. In addition, we’ve added OVF support and expanded the virtual environments for which ISVs and enterprises can quickly package their applications including KVM, Xen, VirtualBox, and VMware.
For configuration and usability, we released WebYaST 1.1, which provides built in web-based configuration for the appliance and enhances how you configure and monitor the health of your appliances. SUSE Appliance Toolkit 1.1 also integrates SUSE Lifecycle Management Server into SUSE Studio, making updating appliances seamless.
We enhanced Kiwi integration to support volumes managed by LVM as well as adding support for building DVDs that will automatically image a machine. We’ve also added support for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1, providing greater performance, reliability and security.
Q: How are you working with partners to address the needs of these customers?
Bowen: Our partnerships with VMware and Amazon Web Services help ensure that the appliances built with SUSE Studio are optimized for their platforms. SUSE Studio 1.1 has support directly building OVF appliances for VMware vSphere and AMIs for the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.
We’re also fortunate to have support for the SUSE Appliance Program from our ISV partners. For example, Zmanda developed the Zmanda Backup Appliance, a pre-configured virtual backup server powered by SUSE Linux Enterprise. It runs on any VMware infrastructure, simplifies storage to any local disk or tape, and is the first virtual appliance that can back up to a public or private cloud.
Q: We hear a lot about software appliances enabling the future of cloud computing. Why is that?
Bowen: Clouds are a great place to deploy appliances. We are seeing many partners creating appliances especially for deployment into clouds as well as adapting existing appliances for the cloud. One new feature of SUSE Studio is the ability to auto-adapt for the cloud, allowing users to build virtual appliances, cloud appliances, and images for hardware appliances from a single template.
Q: How is Linux uniquely positioned to be the platform for appliances?
Bowen: Linux has the ability to be completely customized for the appliance, so you get just the portions of the operating system needed to run the application. This results in a smaller and more secure appliance, as no unnecessary code is included. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server also has customized subscription options for appliance vendors, providing them with the flexibility they need to run their business.
By the way, the contest deadline for entries is November 1, so throw your hat in the ring before it’s too late. Fame and fortune is a pretty sweet reward.