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Friday, 11 November 2016 02:17

SUSE plans container as a service platform


Germany-based SUSE Linux has announced a container as a service platform that it hopes to release as a public beta in April next year, before the first customer version comes out in July the same year.

Three of the developers involved — Federica Teodori, project manager for container and orchestration, Andreas Jaeger, senior product manager, and Simona Arsene, product manager — spoke to iTWire about the technology on the sidelines of SUSECon 2016, the company's annual conference that is being held in Washington DC this week.

Jaeger said the idea was to have a software-defined infrastructure where containers handled the workloads. The advantage was that containers, which include an application and its dependencies, could be moved around and could run from more than one location.

Teodori said another advantage of using containers was that different versions of the same application could be run on the same or different hosts without any conflict or the need to rebuild. This was a saving on developer time and effort.

As Arsene detailed it, there are three components: a micro OS which was derived from SUSE's enterprise Linux distribution, Kubernetes, which handles the management or orchestration of the containers, and the container engine Docker plus the management utility Salt which was used for setting up all the components.

containers trio big

The container gang (from left): Federica Teodori, Andreas Jaeger and and Simona Arsene.

The SLE MicroOS was a new type of operating system customised to run containers and large clusters, she said. "MicroOS has a new mechanism for updates which is known as transactional updates. We use functionalities from SLES 12 service pack 2, which was announced this week, and a set of updates are put together and shipped to machines that then update on their own."

Updates could also be rolled back based on btrfs technology.

Jaeger said Kubernetes provided the orchestration or management of the various containers that a company was using.

Teodori said the idea for this project had not come from any particular industry but was a general project which could be used in any industry, right from a small business to a behemoth that ran multiple data centres. When there was a need to scale, an application platform of this kind was the best choice, she said. "Many start-ups use it, they find it easy to manage their set-ups. And we see our customers starting to evaluate similar solutions."

The idea was not something new, said Arsene. "Last year, we announced JeOS (just enough operating system) which was a stripped down version of SLES. Micro OS is a parallel version which runs only micro services that are needed for containers. The idea was conceived during summer."

sle graphic

Jaeger said the advantages included faster time to market, flexibility as to workloads and where they were run, and a drop in cost.

After the public beta, there will be ongoing releases and a roadmap, Teodori said, adding that the licence under which the technology was released would depend on the licences of individual components.

Arsene pointed out that there would be similar technology put out by SUSE's community project, openSUSE. While that could be used without any subscription, SUSE's own version would, like all its other products, be subscription-based, she added.

"People who are technically oriented may find that the openSUSE version is good enough for them and they can manage on their own. But others may need some hand-holding and the SUSE version will meet that need," she said.

"The operator of a large data centre should be able to easily set up his operations," said Jaeger. "And after that, when most of the functions are software-defined, there will be as much automation as possible, which means that manual intervention is kept to a minimum."

"In short, it means less headaches for the business owner," added Teodori.

The writer is attending SUSECon as a guest of the company.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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