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Virtual Software Appliances

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Introduction

A software appliance is a software application combined with just enough operating system (JeOS) for it to run in a virtual machine. Software appliances simplify server applications by minimizing the tasks typically associated with installation, configuration and maintenance. For appliances the traditional OS is simply another part of the application “stack”. In view of NSA revelations, virtual appliances emerges as one of the most viable alternatives to cloud based application deployment. Virtual appliances provide organizations with higher level of security then cloud-based deployment as both communication is on local network and data are stored locally.

Virtual appliances as a revolutionary software development model

By including OS in software stack virtual appliances represent a new, revolutionary method of software development and deployment.  Many tasks such as scheduler, logging, etc can be offloaded to the operating system. Also multitasking provided by OS is powerful application development paradigm, which permits structuring application as a set of communicating tasks (using named pipes or sockets). This architecture is vastly superior to traditional monolithic software architecture. LAMP stack in this respect is just an  example (albeit very important ) of such new, revolutionary structure of software applications. 

In case of commercial appliances, the customer receives all service and maintenance from the application vendor, eliminating the requirement to manage multiple maintenance streams, licenses, and service contracts. The software appliance is typically sold as a subscription service (pay-as-you-go) and in this respect is an example to Software as a Service implemented without resorting to cloud.  In a way this is a powerful alternative to cloud applications.

The software provider must engineer this solution  to minimize requirements for on-site support since excessive requirements for on-site support diminish (and call into question) the viability of the business model.

The management of upgrades and patching of OS are two most important concerns; recent advances by open source operating systems have been targeted at addressing these concerns.

As virtual Appliances are virtual machines instances that are stored in the form of images, they can be deployed across various servers in no time.  Two most popular platforms for virtual appliances are Xen and VMware.

Summary of Advantages


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[Oct 27, 2014]  openSUSE Factory to merge with Tumbleweed

Oct 25, 2014  |  Linux Veda

As a long-time openSUSE I wondered about the future of Factory and Tumbleweed when the project announced Factory’s evolution as an independent rolling release of the distribution.

Tumbleweed maintainer and the lead Linux kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman was not very positive about the future of Tumbleweed, which was considered to be a ‘kind-of’ rolling release version.

Back then Ludwig Nussel of openSUSE told me, “The new Factory is not here to replace Tumbleweed. Both rolling distributions accomplish different goals. The Tumbleweed initiative provides rolling updates of selected packages (~10% of the packages in Factory) on top of the most recent openSUSE released version. Tumbleweed therefore always has openSUSE releases as base. Factory on the other hand is a full rolling distribution where all packages, even core ones are continuously updated and rebuilt.”

I won’t be surprised if the openSUSE community was being respectful of Greg who created Tumbleweed and didn’t want to kill his project. Even though Greg was of opinion that “Ideally, Tumbleweed will die with the use of Factory in its place. Factory is a great goal, and one that I really want to see happen, as it fits into my working model (constantly updating stable distro), but from what I have been told, it’s just not quite there yet.”

The openSUSE community seems to have find the best solution. The two projects will merge to become a single release. The release will follow the development cycle of Factory but take the more appealing name ‘Tumbleweed’.

Commenting on the new development Greg Kroah-Hartman said, “The changes to the Factory release model have changed it from being an unstable development codebase into the type of rolling release I set out to create when starting openSUSE Tumbleweed. I’m very happy to see these two rolling releases coming together under the name Tumbleweed, and am looking forward to watching how it develops in the future.”

Though Factory won’t disappear; it will remain the name of the development process where openSUSE’s new developments are integrated. It will become a ‘development project’ for creating the ‘user-ready’ Tumbleweed.

The project will be releasing more technical details for existing Factory and Tumbleweed users in November to assist them in migrating to the new release. We will, as usual, keep an eye on the development and publish articles to help users from both side to migrate to Tumbleweed.

[Sep 22, 2010] A developer looks at VMware-Novell

September 21, 2010 | Likewise Blog

Now, let me figuratively step back and make some observations about our CIFS effort:

  1. For the most part, the choice of which particular operating system we used was unimportant. The CIFS stack, Tomcat and JAXWS need OS services (IO, memory management, file system, etc.), but their needs are pretty generic: any Linux or Linux-like operating system would do.
     
  2. It never occurred to us to use an operating system that required us to pay for its use. We’re building an appliance – we don’t want to have to keep track of shipments and handle licensing of the underlying OS. A free supported or semi-supported OS was sufficient for our needs.
     
  3. In spite of my pro-Microsoft-tools bias, we did not use a single Microsoft component or tool to implement our Microsoft-compatible CIFS appliance.

Why are these observations important? They support a point that VMware and others have been making: traditional operating systems (and, thus, Microsoft) are becoming less and less relevant to today’s product development challenges. 30+ years ago, when I upgrated from a Scelbi to an Altair, the difference in platforms made a huge difference in terms of programmer productivity and the value of the final solution. Instead of writing code with assembly language and storing it on cassette tape, we could write code in 3 different languages (assembly, BASIC or Fortran) and store it on floppy disks (big, whopping, 8″ very-floppy disks). Instead of writing a minimal program to interface with a heart monitor, we could write a large application that interfaced with infusion pumps, multiple sensors and with the lab results database in addition to talking to the cardiac monitoring system.

For many of today’s web-based software, the traditional OS is simply another part of the application “stack”. It provides needed services, but the distinctions between one flavor of Linux or another or even between Linux and Windows are increasingly less important. The features that make our appliance an interesting product stem from how it integrates the vSphere client, our vSphere/vCenter extensions and our appliance code. Much of the value is in the “glue” itself and in our CIFS code – places where the OS makes very little difference.

Consider now the partnership between VMware and Novell. Why is it important? My colleague Barry Crist has written about this lately. How would our CIFS effort differ if we’d started work on it more recently?

First, we would have used SUSE Studio and based our appliance on a Novell distro. Why choose Centos, a “semi-supported” distribution, when we can build on a fully-supported OS? Second, we might have chosen to build our web services code with C# and Mono. The Mono team is part of Novell and Novell includes the necessary binary packages with SUSE.

The VMware/Novell partnership is great for developers. It provides us with better tools, a supported operating system and more choices – all for “free”! (Free to people who buy the required version of VMware vSphere). Actually, if you’re willing to spend some money, you can also buy some Novell tools to automate the appliance building process in-house (SUSE Studio is an Internet app).

The potential losers here are Microsoft and Red Hat. Microsoft because neither Windows nor paying-for-Windows makes a lot of sense for appliance developers. Red Hat because the VMware deal will encourage developers to choose SUSE over Centos or Fedora as their appliance OS. Although Red Hat doesn’t make any money directly from Centos or Fedora, the availability of these helps to keep developers in the Red Hat “camp”.

Of course, not all developers are writing virtual appliances, but those that aren’t are probably writing Ajax or Flash-based UIs to talk to Java or Ruby or PHP-based server code that uses MySQL for storage. Again, bad news for traditional OS vendors.

[Aug 18, 2010] Create Your Own Linux Appliances by Ken Hess

Nov 14, 2008

That's right, create your own Linux virtual appliances with VMware Studio. Appliances are small, single purpose servers that provide a service to users. Some examples are Content Management Systems (CMS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, web servers, mail servers, DNS servers, database servers, and so on.

VMware Studio is actually a virtual machine (VM) image that runs in VMware Server, VMware Player, and possibly their other products. To use the Studio, download and boot the VM. Instructions on how to access the web-based interface are displayed to you on the VM's console.

The appliance-building process is simple but requires that you have some advanced knowledge of Linux. VMware's Studio is a tool that is really more suited to ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) who want to supply an appliance that hosts their application or service. When you build your appliance, you can add in an update repository so that your appliance users can easily download and install updates from your repository with minimal effort--a great feature for ISVs.

There are a few glitches with the VMware Studio system but they are relatively minor and should be fixed in the next release since VMware is aware of them. If you need to build an appliance or always wanted to build your own distribution, this is the tool for you.

Novell also offers a tool called SUSE Studio (still in alpha) that fills the same needs as VMware's Studio. I find that SUSE Studio is friendlier to work with and requires less of the user than VMware's product. SUSE Studio is entirely web-based so you can create virtual appliances at a customer site, if needed. I think SUSE Studio is ready for general use but Novell is notoriously conservative with its releases of new software--one explanation for their products having a reputation of rock solid stability.

You can also download ready-to-run virtual appliances from VMware, Thoughtpolice, JumpBox, and several other appliance repositories. I'd rather build my own using VMware Studio so that I can have complete control over all the included packages. You don't have to use a "Studio" application to create your own virtual appliances, you can install your own favorite distribution into a VM, customize it, and distribute it but these Studio apps make it much easier to do so.

You can get the full story on VMware Studio, SUSE Studio, and virtual appliances by picking up a copy of the January 2008 Linux Pro Magazine (Linux Magazine in Europe) and reading my Virtualization column at Linux Magazine.

How do you use virtual appliances? Talk back and let me know.

The JumpBox Virtual Machine & Virtual Appliance Library

Welcome to the Library. Here you'll find a wide range of powerful Open Source web applications packaged in the time saving JumpBox virtual appliance format. Many are available as FREE downloads and signing up for JumpBox Open will give you access to the rest.

JumpBoxes will run on many virtualization platforms including VMWare, Parallels, VirtualBox, Microsoft Hyper-V, Virtual Iron, Xen and Amazon EC2.

JumpBox for the Asterisk Telephony System

Asterisk is a toolkit for building telephony-based applications. It contains all the necessary components to build complex phone interfaces with features like IVR trees, speech recognition and synthesis, call recording and routing. With over two million users it's the world's most popular open source telephony project.

JumpBox for MoinMoin freshmeat.net

JumpBox for MoinMoin is a virtual appliance that makes it possible to get the MoinMoin wiki system running in under a minute. It has built-in backup functionality and can be moved across operating systems and virtualization systems.

JumpBox for Nagios 1.1.7

Nagios is a host, service, and network monitoring system that will watch your network and alert you to problems before your clients or end-users do. The system runs checks on hosts and services that you... specify using plugins that return status information to Nagios. When problems are encountered, the system will send notifications to system administrators so that they can take action on the problem. The JumpBox for Nagios gives you a head start to using the system. It eliminates the complexity involved in getting the application installed, and allows you to focus on the configuration for your specific environment. Since Nagios is based on plugins, depending on what you want to do this will vary in complexity

JumpBox for the MediaWiki Wiki System

MediaWiki is an extremely popular Wiki engine that allows people to collaboratively edit documentation. It’s best known as the software that powers Wikipedia, but can also be installed onto your own servers. The JumpBox for MediaWiki allows anyone to be up and running with this wiki system in minutes on any OS, and incorporates many system-level best practices for optimal performance and maintainability.

JumpBox for Joomla!

Joomla! is an award-winning content management system (CMS) that can help you build Web sites and other powerful online applications. The JumpBox for Joomla saves a great deal of time by capturing the experience of a skilled IT admin in a package that's very easy to use and provides a production quality Joomla! installation very quickly. This JumpBox is for the Joomla! 1.0.x series of releases. A JumpBox for Joomla 1.5.x is also available.

Trac/Subversion Development JumpBox

Trac is an advanced tool for managing software development projects. It provides a simple wiki, an issue tracking system, and tight integration with the Subversion revision control system. However, it's also notorious for being hard to install. With the JumpBox for Trac, it takes about a minute to get trac running. Plus, with the built-in subversion and database backup system and the JumpBox Web-based administration console, it gives you all the basic tools you need to put it into production without ever touching a command line.

JumpBox for Bugzilla

Bugzilla is a Web-based bug tracking system that enables software developers to keep track of outstanding bugs in their product. The JumpBox for Bugzilla makes it easy to get started without worrying about getting the right collection of CPAN modules, database scripts, or Web server configuration.

JumpBox for vTiger

vTiger is a Web-based customer relationship management (CRM) system that competes with applications like Goldmine, SugarCRM, and Salesforce.com. The JumpBox for vTiger is a virtual appliance that requires minimal technical knowledge to install. It has a built in Web administration console, and a backup system that supports archiving the state of the JumpBox to NFS, Windows file shares, and Amazon S3.

[Apr 17, 2008] Just enough operating system - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

JeOS is the abbreviation (pronounced "juice") for the concept of Just Enough Operating System as it applies to a software appliance.

JeOS is not a generic, one-size-fits-all operating system. Rather, it refers to a customized operating system that precisely fits the needs of a particular application. The application's OS requirements can be determined manually, or with an analytical tool, such as rPath's rBuilder.

Therefore, JeOS includes only the pieces of an operating system (often Linux) required to support a particular application and any other third-party components contained in the appliance. This makes the appliance more efficient, smaller, more secure and higher performing than an application running under a full general purpose OS.

[Apr 17, 2008] Novell announces Suse appliance program for ISVs - LinuxWorld

See press-release Novell Announces SUSE Appliance Program and LimeJeos - openSUSE

The program will enable ISVs to create appliances combining their applications with Suse Linux Enterprise in an integrated package.

Novell also announced the beta release of Suse Linux Enterprise JeOS, a minimized version of the Suse Linux Enterprise platform that ISVs can use for creating appliances

... ... ...

Novell also announced Wednesday that it will officially participate in the LimeJeOS project, which is an existing community-led project building a minimized version of the openSuse Linux distribution. Novell will release several new components of the Suse Appliance Program, including an automated tool to build appliances, it added.

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Created: December 20, 2006; Last modified: October 27, 2014