Release: FastScale Composer Suite 2.1

Today FastScale releases a minor update for its flagship product: Composer Suite 2.1.
Despite the version numbering anyway this build introduce a major and long awaited feature: the support for Windows.

The support of Microsoft operating system is so important because it raises technical and licensing issues.

FastScale Composer Suite is able to track how an application interact with the environment, recognizing the OS components (like libraries, services) that it needs and isolating them in a special, redistributable package called DAB.


In this way deploying a Windows application doesn’t require anymore the entire operating system, but just a small footprint environment able to execute the autonomous DABs..


This approach represents the maximum expression of that data center modularization that some virtualization vendors hope to achieve through the Virtual Appliance concept. And there is no other company on the market today offering something similar.
So it doesn’t surprise much that FastScale developed and tested its products at VMware headquarters even before leaving the stealth mode in April 2007.

Composer Suite may work well when manipulating an extremely flexible OS like Linux (and in fact FastScale launched this version as the first one), but it has to face a number of challenges when trying to slim down Windows.

FastScale claims a size reduction in deployments of 95% on average but we find hard to believe that such percentage can be reached with Windows DABs.

Ignoring the technical issues of squeezing a monolithic kernel like the Windows one, there are the licensing and support issues: is the Microsoft EULA allowing such kind of manipulation? Will the ISVs support their applications in such heavily manipulated environment?

FastScale has always been silent about its strategy to solve these challenges and it’s doesn’t currently address any of the questions above in the official announcement. 
Anyway it’s sure that the company is raising much attention: two weeks ago published a rumor about a possible acquisition bid in progress, where one of the potential buyers was Sun. We won’t exclude VMware as well.

Composer Suite 2.1 is available at the starting price of $30,000.

The Virtualization Industry Roadmap has been updated accordingly.

Update: The Fast Scale CEO, Lynn LeBlanc, answered the concerns about the support and licensing issues raised in this article.

We republish her email integrally:

Unlike an appliance model where O/S components or other files are ‘stripped away,’ FastScale Composer Suite virtualizes the full software stack without modification. FastScale Application Blueprinting provides the intelligence of what files to initially provision, but FastScale Automatic Runtime Extensions retrieve any subsequent files that are required by the running application (such as a dynamically loaded library) from the FastScale Repository.   Application file requests are agnostic to the physical location of these components.  The combination of FastScale Application Blueprinting and FastScale Automatic Runtime Extensions enables lightweight provisioning without modifying either applications or operating systems.

For troubleshooting or ISV support escalation, the application ‘sees’ the entire operating system.  The test suite used to test the full stack will also be used to test the FastScale lightweight DAB (Dynamic Application Bundle).  The difference is that when DABs are deployed, only the required components are provisioned to the target server, and the rest of the components are in the repository – accessible to the running application, if needed.  In the most conservative case, customers have the option to provision the entire O/S, either in test-mode or production.  This allows customers to conduct troubleshooting in an incremental fashion, eliminating any need to individually qualify or certify ISV applications.

Regarding licensing, FastScale Composer Suite interoperates with customers’ existing asset management and licensing infrastructure.  Detailed data is maintained in the FastScale Repository for export into custom reporting vehicles and available for license compliance management.  Customers are responsible for tracking payment of, and compliance with, the terms and conditions of their software licenses.  However, FastScale provides very granular data on license usage to support customer compliance. 

A key benefit of FastScale Composer Suite is the ability to dynamically provision bare-metal or virtual servers in seconds, enabling customers to reduce physical servers by increasing utilization.  However, in no way does FastScale attempt an end run around licensing.  FastScale also helps ISVs by enabling customers to deploy lightweight software stacks with reduced memory requirements, improving scalability and performance for virtual server deployment.