A group of former high-level execs from Red Hat are planning to launch a startup called rPath that will support customized Linux distributions.
RPath’s core Linux offering, based on the Conary open-source project, represents a new way to build and maintain Linux without the overhead associated with RPM specification files and large binaries required for mainstream Linux distributions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux, sources said.
Conary is a distributed software management system for Linux distributions that enables developers to branch a distribution and intermingle other components from the Internet, rather than use a full distribution from a single vendor.
The rPath Linux code is expected to move into beta testing this fall, and the software should ship in the first quarter of 2006, the sources said.
Erik Troan founded rPath, sources said. Troan, a former distinguished engineer at Red Hat who launched Specifix in July 2004, will serve as chief engineer of rPath, while Bill Marshall, former vice president of North American sales for Red Hat, will serve as CEO, sources said. RPath will be based in Raleigh, N.C.
Specifix, San Jose, Calif., already provides an embedded Linux distribution and toolset based on the Conary code. Troan is no longer with the company but is parlaying his experience to enable end users and partners to customize Linux for specific applications or appliances and get support from rPath, sources added.
In addition, two former Red Hat engineers including Mike Johnson, a key kernel engineer, and Matt Wilson, who authored Red Hat’s Anaconda graphical installation utility, have joined rPath, sources said.
One executive from a Linux consulting firm said rPath has promise because its distribution runs on Red Hat, but there are significant hurdles to overcome. “It’s a great idea, but their technology still remains unproven in the field and requires extensive customization of the underlying distribution,” said Chris Maresca, senior partner at Olliance Group, Palo Alto, Calif. “If they can make it work, they will be solving what is now one of the biggest problems with RPMs—recursive, incompatible RPM dependencies. And that would help foster Linux adoption in many more environments.”