Linux Delivered Your Way

By Kenneth Hess (Send Email)
Posted Apr 16, 2009


When it comes to operating systems, are you tired of taking what's thrown at you? It's funny how operating system vendors believe that "one size fits all." Wouldn't you rather do it your way? Now you can. Building your own custom Linux distribution (distro) is easy, quick and free. What more could you ask for — support for all major virtual machine types? You got it. You want it to be web-based? You got it. You want it to be easy to use? Got it. Anything else? You also want more than one choice that fits all those criteria? Yep, got that too.

Cover Your Assets: Can't find what you want in a Linux system "off the shelf?" Create your own custom version.

It's true and easier than ever before with tools such as VMware Studio; a free download from VMware, SUSE Studio*, and rPath's rBuilder. VMware Studio is a virtual appliance (a small footprint virtual machine responsible for hosting a single service or application) that runs on VMware's Server, ESX, ESXi, Workstation or Player and supplies you with a web interface convenient for building other appliances or distributions based on your choice of other distributions. SUSE Studio is a completely web-based application that offers the same functionality as VMware Studio but using OpenSUSE only as a basis for appliances or customized distributions. The rBuilder web-based application allows you to build virtual appliances and distributions based on rPath Linux, CentOS or Ubuntu (Hardy).

These tools not only make it possible for you to create your own appliances and distributions for use in your own environment but they also provide the means to create ready-made application appliances to distribute to customers. These services give you the opportunity to deploy your custom application environment directly to your customer's virtual infrastructure. There's no more waiting for your customer to order the correct hardware and software to support your application. And, you'll never have to wait for them to setup power and networking once the other criteria have been met. It's a self-contained, ready-to-run solution.

No more troubleshooting a demo version of your software-no more endless hours of support calls only to find out that your customer is missing a critical dependency — and no more "your mileage may vary" disclaimers because you've removed all the variables. It's your application in an environment that you've created. You know it works. All the customer has to do is power it on.

What could be easier than that?

Although appliances are just beginning to catch on, they are the future of delivering demonstration software and on-demand applications to users and customers alike. Even deploying your own web-based demonstrations is faster and easier with an appliance. And how impressive would it be to provide each of your customers with its own individualized demo version of your software?

What's frugal about creating and deploying your own appliances and distros, you ask? Time is money and saving time for you and your customers saves you both a lot of time and money. Creating a new virtual appliance takes a few minutes — as in about 10 minutes once you've created a virtual appliance. It takes hours to install a standard Linux distribution, pare it down to only what's needed, install apps, dependencies and updates, customize apps, logos and startup scripts and create an ISO image for distribution.

Give your applications a shot in the arm with a virtual appliance. Give yourself a huge reduction in the amount of time, preparation, headaches and money required to deploy your applications in traditional ways. The time and money you save will be anything but virtual.

* Still in alpha and not available to the general public at this time — but it works quite well.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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