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rPath heaves Javelin at Red Hat

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rPath is a little bit closer to its Proect Javelin dreams.

Founded by a bunch of ex-Red Hatters that created a homegrown Linux operating system and a version control system for appliances based on that Linux, rPath has been expanding out to other Linuxes and trying to position itself as a kind of version control system for deployed enterprise applications through its rPath Builder tools and repository. Today, the company has come full circle in a way, announcing support for Red Hat's variant of Linux.

With Project Javelin, rPath is trying to bridge the gap between "apps and ops," meaning that it wants its tools to be deployed as a version control system that spans application development and operations so making changes in software stacks can be done without causing so much grief.

Support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and 5, which is being delivered with the rPath Builder 5.5 tools starting today, is the first step in the Project Javelin effort, through which rPath is going to try to expand from being a niche tool for ISVs to create software appliances for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Ubuntu, or CentOS Linuxes. With Red Hat accounting for the volume of Linux server shipments and with so many Red Hat people on staff, you might be wondering why rPath didn't start here.

The story line is that rPath Linux was just a testbed for the idea of creating a master repository for creating and maintaining complex software appliance stacks, an idea that seems obvious enough until you realize that enterprises have their own processes and prejudices and preferences when it comes to operating systems. To get the money, in other words, rPath had to transform from an appliance maker for ISVs where the Linux really didn't matter to an enterprise-class version control system where the operating system certainly does matter. None of this means that rPath will succeed, but to succeed, the company needed to make this shift.

And it will also need to support the Windows operating system, which is why Windows support for rPath Builder is due in the first half of 2010. Shawn Edmondson, director of product management at rPath, says that supporting Windows is "something of a bigger step that supporting RHEL," which is an understatement to be sure. Windows Server 2003 will get support first with the rPath Builder tools, followed by Windows Server 2008 shortly thereafter. So far, it looks like rPath is sticking to the x64 platform and not wandering into RISC, Itanium, or mainframe territory.

Support for RHEL 4 and 5 doesn't just mean companies can spin up and spit out stacks of software based on these operating systems. The rPath Builder repository has been tightly integrated with the Red Hat Network patching system and acts as a version control intermediary for RHEL machines deployed in the field.

rPath has also tweaked its proprietary packaging format (which Edmonson says is better than Red Hat's RPM in that it does a much better job of allowing deep analysis of dependencies) to allow the deep analysis of the rPath format even though the code stays in RPM format and is perfectly normal looking as far as RHN is concerned.

In addition to the RHEL support, rPath Builder 5.5 allows for the bundling up of a software stack, called a release, obviously, that can be promoted from development into production and locked so developers cannot just go mucking about in code that is operating like code cowboys. (You can, of course, change the code through the repository and re-promote it to production).

The 5.5 release of the tool now has hooks to allow workflow systems (sometimes called runbook automation tools), such as Hewlett-Packard's iConclude formerly independent) and BMC's Atrium Orchestrator (formerly RealOps), as well as help desk ticketing systems, such as BMC Remedy or HP Service Desk (formerly Peregrine), to be hooked into the rPath Builder repository so the rPath tools can assume control of these systems and organize how production code gets tweaked to solve problems on the operational side of the wall that traditional separates development from production.

The updated tool also has an inventory system that can show everything that is under the control of rPath, including local physical and virtual infrastructure and remote cloud infrastructure, and a snazzy dashboard to make all of this information easier to process.

rPath Builder 5.5 is available now. $75,000 will get you an annual subscription, including support, for a tool that can cover 200 deployed physical systems. ®

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