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Pops out little bundles

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This will be hard to believe. Another software company has the cure-all for installing software across a large number of servers.

FastScale Technology has come gushing out of stealth mode with its Composer Suite software. The code promises to make installing applications across hundreds or even thousands of servers a real pleasure instead of a tremendous pain.

The magic behind FastScale's technology stems from the way in which it routes around general purpose operating systems – namely Linux – to craft thin, appliance-like systems on-the-fly.

To run FastScale Composer Suite, customers will need to set up a DB2-based software repository and at least one, dedicated management server. FastScale, of course, provides both pieces of this puzzle, starting at $30,000 for the management server, repository and control over 25 servers.

Using its "Application Blueprint" technology, FastScale takes a look at your server hardware, operating system and desired application. It then pulls out all of the general purpose bits in the OS not needed for that particular app, be it web server, application server, database server or whatever server.

"We identify precisely what OS resources are required for any application to be fully functional," said FastScale CEO Lynn LeBlanc. "We do it at runtime, and we do it in seconds. Best of all, our software does not require any OS or application modifications."

The thinned down OS and application bundle produced by FastScale's code often ends up in the MB range rather than GBs.

FastScale hopes to fight the customer dependence on the so-called "golden image" where customers spend days or weeks tuning an OS and application bundle for peak performance. The trim, 16-person start-up thinks its product removes the need to worry about such golden images at all with FastScale Composer Suite automating the entire tuning process.

The software has proved impressive enough to get Ideas International analyst Tony Iams's boat floating. He thinks that FastScale will help out those with massive data centers and also customers that have embraced server virtualization.

"Managing OSes, patches and middleware has turned into one of the first pain points to show up during the provisioning process with virtual machines," Iams said. "FastScale does solve some of these provisioning problems by letting you create application bundles very efficiently."

A number of other provisioning applications exist from the large server management vendors as well as newer players such as VMware and Cassatt.

FastScale, however, claims that none of these vendors solve the golden image problem.

Many customers like the control and reliability they get from hand-crafting golden images even if the process proves time consuming and painful.

"There is a question as to whether or not administrators will want to do things FastScale's way," Iams said. "They often like having a known quantity that's certified."

LeBlanc claims that FastScale's performance will outweigh any admin love for the golden images.

The company has yet to acquire a paying customer but does have 11 beta users.

For the moment, FastScale's software only works with Linux-based servers. It hopes to add Windows and Solaris support by year end. ®

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