With Novell partnering pretty tightly with Microsoft these days on a number of fronts - operating system compatibility testing on their respective hypervisors, systems management tool cooperation, and Microsoft acting like a SUSE Linux reseller (but not very much these days), you would expect for Novell to have already be supporting Microsoft's Hyper-V R2 hypervisor with the appliance toolkit. But according to Michael Applebaum, director of Linux and appliances marketing at Novell, the company is still pondering this as a possible future option.
In addition to the broader hypervisor support in the SUSE Appliance Toolkit 1.1 release, the tool can now create images that are in a PXE boot format so they can be booted directly from storage area networks over a network link to the server. The virtual appliance images can also be made to work with Novell's Logical Volume Manager, and supports SLES 11 SP1, which came out in May, as a hosted operating system for appliances as well as a hypervisor host for either Xen or KVM, both of which are supported equally inside of SLES 11 SP1. Finally, the 1.1 release of the toolkit can import scripts created by system administrators for deploying images using the Kiwi or AutoYast tools and convert them into virtual appliances.
Once virtual appliances are created by the toolkit, Novell's Cloud Manager, which was just announced two weeks ago and is yet another product in the WorkloadIQ portfolio, can be used to take the output of the toolkit and provision the hypervisors and virtual machines to run the appliance in production, either on a private internal cloud and soon on the EC2 public cloud. (This latter feature is in a tech preview state now and Novell has not given a delivery time for it).
What the SUSE Appliance Toolkit cannot do yet--and what it will need to do to be truly useful--is package up and manage the dependencies of virtual appliances that are linked together to support database, middleware, and application tiers and that function as a logical unit. Applebaum could not say when this capability might be available. Novell is thinking about adding clustering to images so companies can deploy appliances that back each other up, however.
The SUSE Appliance Toolkit is free to use if you use the online version hosted by Novell, but costs big bucks if you want to run a version of it inside your own firewall, you'd better be an ISV. If you are a private company using the onsite version for in-house development, Novell wants $100,000 for a license plus $25,000 a year for support.
Novell says over 85,000 users to date have signed up to use the SUSE Studio tool, and that 6,000 independent software vendors are among those users. (Most are clearly cowboy coders, doing their own thing.) There are over 500,000 appliances that have been built using the SUSE Studio tool, and thousands of those appliances have been posted to the publicly viewable SUSE Gallery, which was opened up earlier this year when the 1.0 release of the appliance toolkit came out.
One last thing: Novell is giving out $10,000 to the top independent and ISV virtual software appliances created using the tool (ten grand each to one cowboy and one ISV). You can find out more about these Dister Awards here. ®