Since its start in 2005, rPath has focused on bringing many of the details that define an enterprise software stack under tight, reliable management through the same version control facilities that developers use to keep their codebases in order.
The company's latest offering, rPath X6, expands its ambitions with powerful configuration management capabilities and a spruced-up user interface that's much improved compared with the version I last tested in 2009. Also much improved since I last reviewed this product is its range of supported deployment targets and the ease with which I could link up to those targets.
In my tests of rPath X6, I had no trouble assembling virtual appliances out of packages from the CentOS network repositories alongside software packages that I uploaded myself. Similarly easy was the process of building and deploying Amazon EC2 and VMware vSphere images.
However, I found the configuration management processes more difficult to master, and the product documentation for these tasks sparser than I'd have liked. The interface for X6 is a mostly point-and-click affair, but before you can point and click your way through configuration tasks, you must first break out a text editor to create and package configurator scripts to enable the GUI functions.
Also, I was confused by some of the changes that rPath has introduced between this and the last version I tested. For instance, in previous versions of the product, appliance management could be carried out through a Web-based console application on the virtual appliances, a management option that's limited to rPath's Linux flavor and unavailable on the mainstream Linux platforms that X6 supports.
All told, rPath is on the right track with X6, but the product would benefit greatly from documentation and interface improvements around its configuration capabilities-both of which, according to rPath, are in the works.
rPath X6 is licensed via annual subscription based on the number of system instances under management. Pricing starts at $50,000 per year. The company's free, hosted version of its product, called rBuilder Online, has been discontinued.