Open Source Virtual Appliances: GroundWork goes with Suse

GroundWork, yesterday announched the latest version of its Enterprise Quickstart as a SUSE-powered virtual appliance, coming with a low price. Beyond commercial open source pricing incentives, I asked David Dennis - senior director of product marketing at Groundwork – to tell why GroundWork used Suse Studio to create its virtual appliance.

There are two main categories of benefits we’ve achieved by working with the Novell SUSE Appliance Program, let’s start from the customer point of view.

Because Enterprise Quickstart is being used in production environments (for core IT for smaller businesses, and at a departmental level or pre-production evaluation for larger businesses), it is important for the underlying linux OS to be a fully-supported, enterprise class distribution. SLES 11 fits these needs and the version bundled with the Enterprise Quickstart SUSE-powered virtual appliance is a fully licensed OEM version.

In contrast, our Community Edition virtual appliance uses GroundWork Monitor Community Edition (community supported) and CentOS (also community supported). But for only $59, buyers get the same flagship GroundWork Monitor Enterprise and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server software they would use in a business-critical production deployment.  We wanted to make our Enterprise Quickstart virtual appliance enterprise-class “across the board”, and at a radical price.  Selecting SLES 11 and using SUSE Studio let us do that.

From a customer perspective, GroundWork and Suse co-marketing is welcome. All in all they get a full-feature branded product for a reasonable price. What about the vendor perspective?

In addition to the smaller footprint, using SUSE Studio has saved as an enormous amount of time.

Building a widely-distributed virtual appliance that runs an enterprise software stack (JBoss, MySQL Enterprise, GroundWork Monitor Enterprise, etc.) involves a series of compromises between download size (want to be
small as possible) and the right amount of resources (too much RAM and it will be too demanding to run on most machines, too little and it won’t perform well).

Previously, it would take us at least whole man-day to build, test, iterate, and fine-tune VMs to get all the settings optimized for the right combination of size and performance.

With SUSE Studio, we had our first prototype built in less than an hour. Subsequent iterations took about 5-10 minutes to configure, build, and test drive in SUSE Studio.

Additionally, SUSE Studio allows for additional customization options (like look-and-feel branding or uploading EULAS) that are a bit labor-intensive when done the old fashioned way.

The ease of use SUSE Studio was important not only from a time to market perspective (we’re launching GroundWork Monitor Enterprise Quickstart SUSE-powered about 4 weeks after the initial launch of the regular Enterprise Quickstart), but also for easier supportability and maintainability going forward, as well.

Thank you Dennis for your detailed answers. I look forward to talk with other vendors about Suse Studio.