SUSE Sees Containers Playing Role to Combat COVID-19

SUSE is now offering free support and maintenance services for open source operating system software and container technologies that wind up being employed on medical devices to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Company CTO Brent Schroeder says that while it’s still early in terms of adoption of container technologies on embedded systems, SUSE is willing to support any effort to employ open source software to develop medical systems that might play a role in combatting the COVID-19 virus.

Obviously, it could take months to develop such systems, but Schroeder says it’s already been proven open source software plays a pivotal role in driving innovation. By making software easily accessible, developers can more easily create proofs-of-concept (PoCs) without having to navigate complex purchasing processes.

Container technologies, meanwhile, could play a pivotal role in enabling developer teams to more easily share code that may need to run on a wide range of processor types, notes Schroeder.

The platforms for which SUSE will provide medical manufacturers free support include SUSE Linux Enterprise and SUSE Embedded Linux, as well as SUSE CaaS Platform and SUSE Cloud Application Platform, application development and deployment platforms based on Kubernetes. Those platforms, in theory, could also be used to create electronic files to manufacture ventilators and N95 medical masks using a 3D printer.

It’s too early to say what new medical devices might be required to combat COVID-19 and other pandemics that are sure to arise in the future. However, it’s apparent that once the current crisis subsides, a lot of additional research and development is likely to be poured into developing a broad range of medical devices that might be used to more reliably identify patients before the exhibit systems, for example. Given the portable nature of those devices, it’s likely lightweight containers, which allow applications to consume a larger share of the limited compute resources on those devices, will play a significant role.

Most embedded systems today run legacy versions of operating systems on bare metal platforms. More recently, virtual machines have begun to be deployed on embedded systems that are connected to the internet. The expectation is that in many of those use cases manufacturers of embedded systems will shift to containers to make it easier to update and secure applications running on those platforms as part of the rise of the internet of things (IoT). Rather than having to update entire applications, containers can be ripped and replaced to add new functionality more easily as needed. That approach also makes it easier to remediate application vulnerabilities once they are discovered.

Naturally, medical device manufacturers are not going to be able to transition to container-based platforms overnight. Finding enough application developers who have the expertise required to build applications for embedded systems using containers will take time. In the meantime, however, there is at least an opportunity to experiment. Those experiments may not necessarily require a massive amount of support from a vendor such as SUSE initially, but it’s usually only a matter of time before they do.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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