Edumate is using SUSE Studio to create a more controlled development and management environment for its educational software appliances. The solution has slashed deployment times by more than 90%, and is helping the company to save more than US$20,000 annually.

The Challenge

As Edumate applications are accessed by a diverse user base, with varying levels of computing expertise, the platform needs to be highly flexible and intuitive. To maximise its value proposition to customers, Edumate must also offer easy manageability at a low total cost of operation.

“We aim to make the Edumate user experience as straightforward as possible, to give users quick and easy to access information they need,” said David Savill, Chief Technology Officer at Edumate. “Many schools also don’t want to go to the hassle of configuring and supporting the solution themselves, so we provide remote management for a great deal of the appliances, handling everything from security updates and patches to monitoring and support.”

As its fleet of appliances and variety of application environments grew, the team at Edumate found it challenging to ensure that each and every appliance was kept up-to-date and running properly. The company wanted to find a way to reduce the effort of configuring and managing appliances, and create a more structured appliance development process.

“SUSE Studio removes any ‘what-ifs’ from the development process, and has made our lives much easier… so we can focus on refining what we do to even higher levels of efficiency.”

SUSE Solution

Edumate selected SUSE Studio, a powerful tool for building software appliances based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Using the solution’s intuitive web interface, the company can easily create, configure and maintain appliances from a single point of control.

“With SUSE Studio, we have developed a master template, which sits at the heart of all our Edumate appliances,” said Savill. “We can customise each appliance, adding our own software packages and setting up networking security and users. We then package up the entire appliance, and make it ready for deployment, either virtually or as a physical CD.”

In addition to enabling the rapid creation and complete customisation of Linux-based appliances, SUSE Studio helps Edumate to simplify appliance testing and lifecycle management by providing a controlled and structured development environment.

With all appliances now managed from a central platform, developers can ensure that software patches and updates are applied rapidly and consistently across the entire appliance landscape. Testing cycles have also been improved, so Edumate can reliably detect any incompatibilities in new packages before they are rolled out, minimising disruption for end users.

The Results

Thanks to SUSE Studio, Edumate has been able to significantly accelerate the speed at which developers can provision new appliances, and take a great degree of complexity out of the development process.

“Previously, building and provisioning new appliances used to take between four and five hours,” said Savill. “With SUSE Studio, we have honed the development process to the point where we can get a new appliance up and running in around 20 minutes. It’s so easy that many of our customers could probably even do it themselves!”

The time savings and efficiency gains have been a huge boost for a relatively small company like Edumate, which estimates that it is saving more than US$20,000 a year on application development expenses with SUSE Studio.

“For us, the time and cost savings are hugely appreciated; but we believe that the ability to manage all our appliances from a central, controlled system is of even greater benefit,” said Savill.

“SUSE Studio removes any ‘what-ifs’ from the development process, and has made our lives much easier. We no longer have to worry about whether there are any application conflicts or differences from site-to-site, so we can focus on refining what we do to even higher levels of efficiency.”