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Commercial Linux distributor SUSE, which was taken private by Attachmate back in April and split from former owner Novell, wants to do for OpenStack what it did for Linux. It is also what everybody else in the OpenStack cloud fabric camp seems to want to do: make some money selling support for OpenStack.

The idea worked for Linux way back when, and SUSE quickly became a credible alternative to Red Hat as a supplier of a Linux distro for x86, Power, Itanium, and mainframe platforms. SUSE was supposed to save Novell, and maybe it did, but you could make a fair argument that Novell held back SUSE, which might have found a better home elsewhere.

Attachmate, which is backed by private equity firms Francisco Partners, Thoma Bravo, and Golden Gate Capital, did not buy Novell and set SUSE free from it just to tilt at Microsoft Windows and Amazon EC2 windmills. It gave SUSE its freedom to carve out its niche, serve its 13,000 customers worldwide, and help them build cloudy infrastructure.

The good news for SUSE is that OpenStack is either just ready for production releases or not quite there yet. If you believe Canonical, which has put the "Diablo" release of OpenStack into its latest Ubuntu Server 11.10 release that just came out two weeks ago, then OpenStack is ready for prime time. Kerry Kim, director of solutions marketing at SUSE, which has been re-headquartered in Nuremberg, Germany, says that the SUSE Cloud distro of OpenStack that the company has put together is based on the same Diablo release, but SUSE doesn't think it is suitable for production yet. But, says Kim, SUSE is anticipating that when the "Essex" release of OpenStack, slated for delivery in April 2012, comes out, then the SUSE Cloud that is based on this code will be ready for primetime and, equally importantly, ready to get a support contract and a price.

In the meantime, SUSE wants to give developers and potential customers a chance to play with the SUSE Cloud variant of OpenStack and see how it has been integrated with SUSE Studio development tools and the SUSE Gallery virtual machine appliance deployment tool that works in conjunction with it.

The SUSE Cloud runs the OpenStack 2011.3 release on top of virtual instance of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1. The stack includes the Nova compute controller, the Swift storage controller, the Glance image service, the Keystone identity management service, and the OpenStack dashboard. You can download it from the SUSE Gallery here, and SUSE warns that it is a little rough around the edges. This preview currently supports the Xen hypervisor on top of the cloud fabric, but eventually SUSE will support KVM, ESXi, or Hyper-V hypervisors side-by-side on the SUSE Cloud along with Xen.

The PlateSpin and SUSE Manager management tools that used to be part of Novell are now part of Attachmate's NetIQ systems management and security division, and these are not bundled in any way with the SUSE Cloud, says Kim. The plan is to just create the raw infrastructure platform and then let these Attachmate tools as well as those from other third parties hook into and work with SUSE's interpretation of OpenStack.

SUSE has not made a lot of noise about its joining the OpenStack effort, but did point out in a blog on Monday that it had recently joined the 125-company-strong OpenStack effort and that it was going to bring out a commercially supported version of OpenStack based on SLES. ®

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