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Novell, Ingres partner for appliances

A warm handoff

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In January, Novell released its SUSE Appliance Toolkit after nearly a year of alpha and beta testing. Now begins the difficult task of getting systems, middleware, and database software makers to rejigger their code and make it available through the online tool so companies can spin up and spit out software appliances.

Today at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco, Novell and open source database maker Ingres are touting the fact that the latter company's eponymous database is now available through the SUSE Appliance Toolkit.

The Appliance Toolkit is a set of functions that work in conjunction with the SUSE Studio Online Linux instance spinner, a free service that Novell created to encourage ISVs to customize and distribute their own particular variant of SUSE Linux for desktops or servers, but one that can get patch and technical support through existing Novell systems. In January, when the system went live, Novell said it would not charge ISVs to use these appliance-making tools unless they wanted to have a local version of the whole shebang sitting inside their firewalls, in which case SUSE Studio Onsite costs $100,000 plus $25,000 a year for ongoing maintenance.

According to Novell and Ingres, the Ingres database is available through a template that is already configured and tuned to run on SUSE Linux for x64 machinery, making it much easier to use than the existing PostgreSQL and MySQL database images that can also currently be deployed in appliances based on the SUSE Linux stack from SUSE Studio.

With all three of those databases being open source, there are no licensing issues involved in having the database code sitting out there in the Appliance Toolkit repository. But the whole point of the Appliance Toolkit is to simplify and automate how application stacks are built and to provide a consistent means of getting support for the resulting stacks. And thus, Novell and Ingres have partnered to make the support of the combined SUSE Linux and Ingress database as seamless as is possible between two separate companies.

While SUSE Studio and the Appliance Toolkit are free services, ISVs that deploy applications at their end-user customers are expected to negotiate support contracts with their customers for their stacks on the one end and with Novell for supporting SUSE Linux on the other; ISVs have to negotiate service agreements with Ingres as well. And when tech support issues arise with the combined software, Novell and Ingress have a "warm handoff" agreement whereby they work out which of the two is best to handle an issue and then get it done. Novell and Ingres are linking their internal support organizations to deal with tech support incidents. Because the two vendors have done this, the ISVs don't have to dedicate techies of their own for this part of the stack. They just code their applications to Ingres, spin up an appliance in about five minutes, and move on.

The SUSE Appliance Toolkit can spin up appliances based on either the server or desktop version of Ingres Database 9.3, the most current release. The appliances can be created to run inside of a Xen virtual machine or to run on bare metal.

Ingres has more than 10,000 paying clients using its database (and untold numbers who use the open source code and don't pay a dime), but only about 1,000 of them are direct customers of the company. The other 9,000 or so are managed by hundreds of reseller partners, according to Deb Woods, vice president of product management at Ingres. Woods reckons that there are hundreds of third-party applications currently running on the Ingres database, and finding a way to make it easier for ISVs to deploy Ingres is one way to help increase the popularity of the Ingres database.

Having Sun Microsystems buy MySQL sure didn't hurt the Ingres cause, and Oracle's acquisition of Sun in late January sure gave Ingres a boost, too.

One database with templates that make it easy to install is not enough for the Appliance Toolkit, of course. Novell was mum on its plans to give PostgreSQL or MySQL the same templates that Ingres has, and similarly were not in any mood to talk about how Oracle's 11g or IBM's DB2 might be rolled into appliances along with WebLogic and WebSphere middleware. ®

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