SUSE Studio - Rolling Your Own: The openSUSE Ecosystem, Part 5

On Thursday, February 4th I gave a talk for the Bellingham Linux Users Group (BLUG), 'touring' openSUSE 11.2 as a desktop OS, and giving a broad overview of the projects and community that culminates in the openSUSE Linux distribution. For those who missed it, here's part five of the written interpretation of my discussion.

Built with SUSE Studio
One of the newest members of the SUSE ecosystem, Studio is drawing attention to the SUSE distributions by allowing end users to easily customize their own distribution, either in broad, user-friendly strokes, or down to the tiniest minutiae, all from the comfort of a web browser.

The results of SUSE Studio are commonly referred to as appliances, as the most common purpose of the customization is to create a single-purpose system, typically for deployment in a virtual environment.

Your appliance is only a few clicks away.

Studio jump-starts your efforts to build an appliance using a Base Image, a prebuilt foundation to work from. These are available both for graphical desktops (like KDE, Gnome and IceWM) as well as text-only and the Just Enough Operating System (think small) images, built on openSUSE 11.2, SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 & 11, for both 32 and 64-bit architectures. Recently, additional images starting becoming available, including a prebuilt LAMP stack, and openSUSE desktop images for the most recent releases of both KDE & Gnome.

After selecting a base image, you can subscribe your appliance to software repositiories, and add or remove RPMs from the base installation. Simple configuration forms allow you to customize some common options: adding users, setting network behavior, setting custom backgrounds, configuring postgres & mysql database servers, vmware and xen image attributes, and editing scripts that are run after creation or boot of the image. For more granular control, individual files (or tarballs) can be uploaded and included into the image at a selected path, with selected permissions. All along the way a sidebar summarizes recent activity on your appliance, as well as the overall size of the disc image, and a composite of the custom background & logo for easy recognition.

At any point along the way you can build your appliance to suit. Select a format (appliances can be built as LiveCD ISOs, disk or thumb-drive images, or vmware or xen virtual machines.) After selecting a version number, a background system assembles your appliance image, and compresses it for easy download.

Go ahead. Take it for a spin.

So you've added a some packages, done your configuration, maybe uploaded some config files, and built the image. Now what? Well, you could download the image and see what you missed, or you could try it out it in the Studio. When you click he Test Drive link on a built image, the image will be launched on a virtual machine, and you will be presented with it, via a flash-based VNC viewer. At this point you have an hour of live time with your appliance to try it out, or customize it directly. In addition to the VNC interface, you can see a real-time list of files modified in the appliance, and download them or install them as overlay files on the image for the next build. Test Drive also provides ssh and http access to your VM for more convenient administration or testing of web applications. When you're finished making changes, or testing things out, just close the tab and the VM will be shut down.

Just plain awesome.

Currntly, I'm using Studio to maintain an openSUSE desktop that runs comfortably on HP thin clients, and a SLES-based Ruby on Rails server used to standardize a virtual web farm. Two completely divergent solutions, both of which are handled gracefully in Studio. Why don't you give it a try and see what you come up with... Studio makes "what if" into a downloadable image in record time :)