Government // Enterprise Architecture
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8/4/2009
01:06 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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A Peek Inside SUSE Studio

While I was doing my writeup of SUSE Studio the other day -- Novell's new "Linux vending machine" -- I was in the process of building a couple of different distributions with it, too. The system is still closed to the public -- it's invite-only -- but I thought I'd share some basic impres

While I was doing my writeup of SUSE Studio the other day -- Novell's new "Linux vending machine" -- I was in the process of building a couple of different distributions with it, too. The system is still closed to the public -- it's invite-only -- but I thought I'd share some basic impressions here.

When you create an account with SUSE Studio, you get 15 GB of disk space to use to create as many appliances as you like. An appliance can be created from a number of basic templates and then modified on a package-by-package basis. It's even possible to add packages from other repositories if you're not satisfied with SUSE's inventory. Many other common things -- user accounts, scripts, runlevels -- can all be set up ahead of time.

susestudio2

The absolute best feature, though, is the "test drive". Your appliance can be booted on SUSE's servers and run remotely in a web browser that supports Flash. (They seem to be using QEMU on the backend.) The test-drive sessions are limited to one hour, but that's generally more than enough time to figure out if what you've built is up to snuff. If you're building a system that's to be run as an image in either VMware or Xen, you can also control things like virtual disk and RAM allotments.

susestudio

The whole thing sports a high degree of polish and consistency of design -- it's logical at first glance, easy to navigate, and only very occasionally did I have a problem wondering where something was or what context I was in. I suspect the final version will be slightly different in the minor details, but most of what's in there seems very nailed-down. (Side note: Web sites seem to be far easier to bring up to snuff in this regard, as opposed to desktop apps, simply because the former are that much more public, malleable, and easier to edit on the fly.)

There's a few issues I ran into, but they were more annoying than fatal. My first attempt at an appliance -- a minimal IceWM distro -- didn't recognize any keyboard attached to it, possibly due to my own lack of adding a needed package. Normally the build system drops you hints about things like this you might not know -- e.g., what packages to add if you want to take a live-filesystem appliance and allow it to become installable -- but I guess they hadn't yet flagged this issue.

What's best about this whole system is how it takes the kind of thing that used to require an immense amount of labor and reduces it to a fairly automatic process. A company that wanted to create a branded distribution for internal use, for instance, would be able to do it with SUSE Studio in a few days. What I'd really love to see is the same technology applied to the Ubuntu branch of Linux as well (Fedora has Revisor), either as a web service or as a local Win/Lin app. Any takers?

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