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Novell opens Linux appliance gallery

Not quite the Apple App Store

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Novell has opened an online gallery for SUSE software appliances.

It has been a year since Novell launched its SUSE Appliance Program, which offers a set of online tools, dubbed SUSE Studio, for spinning up software appliances based on its SUSE Linux distro. The appliance tools were aimed at software developers who wanted to code appliances for their own purposes – perhaps as a means of more easily supporting and redistributing their own application software to their customers – not for distributing software appliances to the general public.

But that is precisely what some software developers want to be able to do, according to Joanna Rosenberg, ISV marketing manager at Novell, and so on the first birthday of the SUSE Appliance Program, Novell is opening up what it calls the SUSE Gallery. Now, when ISVs or individual developers create a software appliance using SUSE Studio, they can decide to keep that appliance under wraps in their private account or set it free for others to download and use in the SUSE Gallery.

Don't get the wrong impression. SUSE Gallery is not the the Apple App Store, and Peter Bowen, the architect of the SUSE Appliance Program, says Novell has no plans to turn it into a place where Novell collects money as software firms and individual developers peddle their appliances. Novell's intent for the SUSE Studio tools was to help developers make and support software appliances, and then negotiate a custom volume support agreement based on what they created and who they are selling it to with Novell as they distribute their products using customized SUSE Linux stacks. The idea is to integrate custom appliances into the Yast Online support mechanisms that regular SUSE Linux licenses use to keep updated.

Novell has not said how much money – if any – SUSE Studio has driven through these appliance support contracts. Market watcher IDC is projecting that the software appliance market will grow to $1.18bn by 2012, and Novell could get an infrastructure slice of that.

Over 80,000 registered users have built a total of 415,000 software appliances in the past year, so SUSE Studio is getting plenty of action. (Novell says that 5,000 ISVs have signed up to play with SUSE Studio). The hope, says Rosenberg, is that developers will want to show off their code in the SUSE Gallery and help fuel the idea of using software appliances.

So far, there are about 175 appliances in the SUSE Gallery, which you can see here and which were added during the private beta for the tool. The site has a search engine to help you plow through what could be an immense number of software appliances within a matter of months.

The way SUSE Studio works now, it creates a complete binary software stack, including the bits of SUSE Linux needed to run the application and whatever desktop or server virtualization (if any) the developer employs. ISVs and developers do not have to distribute their source code when they pop things into the SUSE Gallery, but they can link out to their source code if they want, giving appliance users full access to the code so they can make their own modifications and perhaps create a derivative appliance.

To help get people keen on showing off their appliances, Novell is ponying up $20,000 to give to appliance makers; $10,000 each to a community and a commercial appliance maker. Markus Rex, the general manager of open products at Novell, and a team of independent judges will choose who has created the best appliances. The contest ends on September 30. ®

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