US startup LinMin has upgraded its LinMin Bare Metal Provisioning system to include a new API (application programming interface) that allows it to be used in conjunction with third party applications.

LinMin's Bare Metal Provisioning system works by being installed on one machine, and this system is then "transformed into a bare metal provisioning and imaging appliance." A bare metal system is typically a physical or virtualised computer system, with no installed operating system.

All of an organisation's OS and software installation DVDs and CDs are then uploaded onto this 'appliance', and the system administrator can set them up for casual or volume deployments ('On the Fly' provisioning) or for pinpoint accuracy ('Fire and Forget' provisioning) onto 'bare metal' servers, blades, PCs, appliances and virtual machines.

The software "can install (not just 'image') Red Hat, Novell, CentOS, Ubuntu, Fedora, Asianux, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003," said the California-based company.

The main advantage of this type of software is that it reduces the complexity and time it takes to install and setup software on multiple boxes, and it is useful for system admins that are frequently deploying new systems or repurposing older boxes.

"LinMin Bare Metal Provisioning allows for the easily provisioning of new systems," said Laurent Gharda, CEO and founder of LinMin. "It offers native, unattended installations of the system, just like you are in front of machine. But you can do it remotely."

LinMin first launched its Bare Metal Provisioning software back in March this year. However, according to Gharda, the main feature of release 5.2 announced this week, is the API.

"The API opens the door to all sorts of applications," Gharda said. "It allows third party apps to be used in conjunction with LinMin."

"With the API, third party apps can now ask LinMin to do something like create extra servers to deal with increased workload," he added. "The product is ideal for hosting environments. For example, the owner of a cloud infrastructure can easily bring online 500 extra servers to deal with busy periods such as Christmas. He can then, just as easily, return the 500 servers to the pool when things have quietened down."

Other features of the new release include single command installation process. According to Gharda, this is a highly network dependent auto detection system. With a single command, users can discover environment variables and locate software repositories.

Gharda also says that the software can do imaging (capture, restore and clone entire disks without the native OS running) to help with disaster recovery. "With disk imaging, it offers sector by sector capture of the entire disk, so it can be stored on network for backup provision," he said.

A number of usability enhancements have also been included in the new release, including support for all the latest Linux releases.

While other companies offer similar software, LinMin claims it differs due to the affordability of its provisioning system and its ease of use.

"The product was launched back in March, but in reality it much older than that," said Gharda. "It is not a brand new product, as the intellectual IP comes from an older company called Open Country, which received lots of venture capital." LinMin brought assets of Open Country when it went out of business, so LinMin has not been burdened with a huge R&D spend.

"LinMin is a re-architecturing of that existing Open Country product," said Gharda. "It is priced at a fraction compared to IBM."

"Cost is very relevant, but the other major item is simplicity of operation," Gharda went on. "Most companies cannot afford tools from Opsware, CA and IBM. Hosting companies for example, I would be shocked if 1 percent used their software, as it is too expensive for them and too complex."

"We fit into existing system admin environments, such as IBM Tivoli etc," he concluded. "Co-existing with other system management vendors is our forte."

The LinMin is available for purchase and download at the company's website. LinMin Bare Metal Provisioning is priced at $250 (£125) for up to 10 client systems, $1,000 for up to 100 client systems and $1,875 for up to 250 clients systems.

Annual subscriptions are also available for $100, $400 and $750 respectively.