SC Online has an interesting story about rPath’s efforts to provide software as a service providers the tools they need to provide reliable services to their users without building their own infrastructure.
It will work like this: software developers use rBuilder to build an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) that is stored using the Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). Then, with a single click, rBuilder and rBuilder Online users can boot their software appliances on Amazon EC2. No more waiting for downloads or fighting with complex installation procedures. Software appliances plus Amazon EC2 deliver software value without the hassles on-demand.
So it’s conceptually similar to what Sun is doing with it’s HPC SaaS initiatives over at network.com, with a twist. Where Sun focuses on creating a channel for ISVs to allow customers to run their codes on Sun’s machines, rPath is allowing the ISV to build the whole environment that users run in, from (virtual) hardware to software.
More control can be a powerful force in controlling the user experience (as we’ve seen with Apple), and the offering is an interesting step in the SaaS approach. It will be fun to see if either catches on.