Novell makes Linux easy with SUSE Studio

Novell has significantly upped the stakes in the developer tools market with SUSE Studio Online, which makes it super easy to build Linux-based appliances with minimum expertise.

Microsoft, for all its faults, has significantly lowered the bar to IT development, offering tools like Visual Studio that help make average developers more productive. Linux, on the contrary, has been supercharged with powerful capabilities, but has often required significant experience to harness that power.

Enter Novell's SUSE Studio Online, a cool new way to develop software and virtual appliances online. I wrote about SUSE Studio Online back in January 2009 when it was still in alpha stage, but Novell has now officially released this tool that "enables ISVs to customize a fully supported, mission-critical operating system and then build and test a complete software stack."

In other words, Novell, like Microsoft before it, wants to make technology easy.

Novell isn't alone in this aim, of course. Canonical has made great strides in making the Linux "desktop" intuitive and easy, while Red Hat has been working hard to facilitate Linux-based virtualization and cloud computing.

But Novell's SUSE Appliance Program arguably tackles one of the hardest problems in Linux, and delivers a truly easy experience. I asked Matt Richards, Novell's senior program manager for SUSE Appliance Program, to identify how Novell's strategy differs not only from the other Linux vendors, but also from Microsoft.

His answer is instructive:

We are the only operating system vendor that is focused on making it easy for ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) to make money from software appliances. The SUSE Appliance Program is designed specifically for ISVs, providing the technical, sales, and marketing capabilities that ISVs need to build appliances, get appliances into the market, and expand their application footprint.

Only Novell allows ISVs to customize a mission-critical operating system--and get full support for that customized OS.

Proprietary operating systems lack the modularity that Linux offers, and other Linux vendors don't have the SUSE Studio Online tool, which enables ISVs to customize their operating system in a matter of minutes. When you add the technology to our distribution partners like TechData, we offer a unique value proposition that helps ISVs expand their market opportunity.

It's hard to overstate the importance of Richards' comment about "full support," as I've noted before. It's hard enough to enable customization if you're a vendor, but then to support those customizations? Brutally difficult.

And yet that is what Novell is doing, with a host of ISVs already signed up in support.

Novell has demonstrated that it can cut prices, as it has with IBM on mainframes. That's great for enterprises, but the big cost for ISVs is development, which Novell's SUSE Appliance Program should go a long way toward reducing.

This is a bold move by Novell, and great for the industry. Novell's SUSE Studio Online sends a shot over the bow of proprietary software tools, pushing the envelope on innovation. Try finding something as good as SUSE Studio Online for Windows, Unix, etc. (Spoiler: you won't.)

Novell SUSE Studio Online - screenshot Novell

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.

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