rPath, Inc. was a technology company based in Raleigh, North Carolina that provided a platform (a "service factory" ) for enterprise IT organizations, independent software vendors (ISVs) and on-demand service providers to automate the process of constructing (or packaging), deploying and updating software stacks across physical, virtual and cloud-based environments. rPath modeled the entire software stack and managed all of its components and dependencies under version control. It acted as a model-driven and version-controlled repository and software distribution hub.
rPath takes a different approach to automation than that of many traditional management-tool vendors. To many in IT, automation is seen as the codification of runbooks, but rPath industrializes the operational aspects of the data center by modeling software stacks and enabling them to be intelligently managed. This approach has the potential to transform the way IT manages its relationship with the business units and the technology. The rPath solution is suitable for organizations where change is an ongoing process. For these companies, the ability to industrialize the process and procedures will result in improved quality of service at reduced cost.
System Version Control
rPath provides a commercial version control platform for deployed software systems. rPath is not a source code management system. Rather, it is an operational management platform that applies the principles and disciplines of source code control to the management of deployable software systems—specifically, system manifests, packages, binaries, policies and system configurations. System version control is the technological foundation that ensures systems can be quickly reproduced, patched and updated, rollback-ed and reported on.
Deep System Modeling
rPath also provides a deeply modeled system inventory. This inventory granularly describes the desired state of every file, binary, application component, and software stack on every production system—with complete information about applied policies and dependencies—as version-controlled system manifests. These manifests are actionable models for managing the complete lifecycle of deployed systems, providing the basis for understanding change impact and controlling change. Also, rather than applying universal updates, patches and updates can be targeted to only the systems that require change.
Hierarchical System Definition
rPath allows definition of systems as layered variants of common base platforms. For example, the standard corporate web server stack may start with a standard build of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), but add a specific custom version of the Apache HTTP Server and remove all availability of FTP. With this feature, IT administrators can avoid redundant and error-prone patching and application updates across thousands of instances by applying changes once to these base platforms.
rPath enables IT groups to define and automatically enforce build-time policies that govern how systems are constructed. These policies may enforce specific best practices, inject management agents, policies or metadata, or control which versions of software are or are not included. By using the policy-based controls and hierarchical definitions in rPath organizations can check that a system is compliant by comparing it to a reference architecture based on centrally defined policies.
Automated Dependency Discovery
When rPath imports new or existing software artifacts into system version control, it automatically analyzes each software artifact to discover its entire software supply chain, including operating system (OS) components, middleware and libraries. This information enables build-time system construction and validation and reduces the number of maintenance failures and outages that result from missing dependencies and conflicting components. “Ovum considers the automated dependency-checking capability to be an extremely useful and often overlooked feature that all such tools should employ.”
Release Lifecycle Management
rPath ensures stakeholders in each phase of the lifecycle are working from a consistent system definition, eliminating the risk of system “drift” between lifecycle stages and enabling a clean software build environment. rPath also provides access control and workflow to ensure controlled and auditable handoff between development, test, staging and production phases of the release lifecycle.
rPath developed Conary, an open source software package management and configuration software that forms the core of rBuilder. It allows rollbacks, incremental ("changeset") updates, and distributed downloading which removes the need for programs such as apt or yum.
rPath was founded in 2005 and was originally known for packaging applications as virtual appliances for its independent software vendors (ISVs) and end-user customers. It was co-founded by Erik Troan, co-author of Red Hat Package Manager (RPM), the Linux standard package management system. rPath was one of the first entrants into the software appliance market and its innovative integrated lifecycle management quickly set it up apart from other solutions. rPath’s rBuilder product consistently scored at the top of the software appliance market in the capability categories. In 2009, rPath made a transition to selling to enterprise IT organizations.
rPath provides system automation for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and 2003 as well as Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and 5, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, and CentOS. The solution is also available on-premise, as a dedicated hosted solution, and SaaS.
The NRE Alliance
The NRE Alliance (NRE) is a coalition of newScale, rPath and Eucalyptus Systems focused on bringing self-service private and hybrid cloud computing to the enterprise. The three vendors have combined the best in self-service, automation and elasticity to deliver a complete enterprise cloud computing solution that will help IT departments transform into internally managed versions of a public cloud computing service like Rackspace or Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). The coalition was announced on August 24, 2010.
NRE offers the foundations for a complete enterprise cloud computing solution. newScale provides a self-service IT storefront with on-demand provisioning from a menu of private or public cloud computing service options; rPath is the “service factory,” or a centralized software distribution hub for managing IT system construction and change; and Eucalyptus Systems provides private cloud computing infrastructure for elastic scaling of workloads based on dynamic demand. The complete solution is delivered by MomentumSI.
"One of the main benefits of this coalition is agility, helping multiple departments within IT to accelerate testing and deployment of new business applications. [The NRE Alliance] offers enterprise IT organizations a faster on-ramp to on-demand IT service delivery."
"The NRE Alliance delivers on the four key elements of an enterprise cloud—self-service, automation, elasticity and integration. It is these same four keys to the enterprise cloud which newScale, rPath, Eucalyptus Systems and MomentumSI have come together to provide. Building and managing a private cloud is now within reach."
While newScale is the storefront and orchestration engine, rPath is the "service factory," which provides the "back-end automation" for the storefront.
"rPath automates the assembly of new, ready-to-deploy software stacks. The process is based on an automated build-time dependency discovery that resolves the entire dependency chain. The resulting information is the basis for a detailed model that defines what software, policies and configurations belong on a system. These models define entire application stacks or any layer of a stack (such as OS or middleware). Each model is version controlled to ensure consistency over time."
The models rPath generates "act as ‘blueprints’ of the systems and system configurations representing a complete business service. The blueprints describe every piece of software and the relationships among software components. Policy enforcement associates policies with services and governs the specifications and relationships among the technology elements."
"Once rPath has modeled each service, it makes it available as a standardized and reusable component within the newScale catalog. The models can then be used to automate provisioning of similar services across development, test, and/or production environments, generating new images on-demand or incremental updates to deployed systems."
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- Craig, Julie. "Cloud Coalition: rPath, newScale, and Eucalyptus Systems Partner on Self-Service Public and Private Cloud". Enterprise Management Associates, 2010, p. 4.
- Burns, Paul. "Four Keys to the Enterprise Cloud". Neovise, 2010, p. 2.