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SUSE Studio is powerful OS instance builder

By Tom Henderson and Brendan Allen, Network World
March 29, 2010 12:04 AM ET

Network World - We first saw SUSE Studio in beta at VMWorld in 2008, a skunkworks tool for building SUSE instances. It's come a long way since then.

Watch a slideshow of what we loved and hated about SUSE Studio

Today, Novell's SUSE Studio is a Web-based virtual appliance/ISO image creator using SUSE Linux. It has no parallels that we can find for building operating systems instances.

Novell supplies Studio users with a 15GB online playground to make instances. You're not limited to just CD/DVD results, and you can see the work you've done online — then download it or even execute it online.

Once built, operating system combinations can be output as ISO images, virtual machine images for VMware, or other forms of the combos you build of the actual SUSE servers. The provisioning capabilities of Studio are profound.

Once we joined the SUSE studio community and logged in, we were presented with quite a few template choices. The three main choices of operating systems are OpenSUSE 11.2, SLE 11 and SLE 10. Within each version, there are a handful of choices such as Gnome Desktop, JeOS (Just enough OS), Server (text-only/non-GUI), KDE Desktop or Minimal X (windows) blends. Then we could choose either 32-bit or 64-bit kernels.

There are additional templates from Novell's partner Ingres, plus LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PhP) server.


After selecting the initial template, there are quite a few customizations that can be made. The customizations can be used for one or a hundred duplicate instances (duplicated offline) and are checked by Studio to see if the instances can be supported by Novell — officially.

First, a choice is made from a large number of application packages. Choices fall along the line of other SUSE packages and the selection drill will be familiar to Linux admins. You can optionally upload your own custom RPM's or add repositories if you want -- even pre-seeding data files or combinations of apps and data.

Miming the familiar SUSE installer, we could search for packages with Studio by category, pattern or list them all. If we added a package that had dependencies, SUSE Studio would check and add them to the package list, which is a huge time saver.

Then, within our Studio webspace, the modified instance could be stored or moved to another destination until it becomes a live instance, in some format that we chose.

The next section of Studio configures the SUSE instance environment. Here we could configure the network, time zone, users, firewall settings (limited), logo, background, startup runlevel, and more.

There are other options. For example, under the Server tab, we could configure the MySQL service by uploading a database and creating users — although not all services are available for customization. Under the appliance section, customizations include the amount of RAM and virtual disk size (for VMware and XenServer formats). Also, we could setup our script to run at the end of the build or every time the appliance boots. The LAMP template included setup to turn on Apache and MySQL by default.

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