rPath, a Linux-based startup that is developing software-based “virtual” appliances, is teaming up with Novell for a SUSE Linux based product.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

rPath, which is venture backed, was founded by a team of former Red Hat executives. Red Hat and Novell are fierce rivals in the growing Linux marketplace.

In fact, a spokesperson for rPath said rPath does not have a relationship with Red Hat and is not in negotiation with the company about a deal similar to that struck with Novell.

"Yes, this deal is affirmation that rPath remains operating system agnostic," the spokesperson added.

Software appliances enable Linux applications to be streamlined and run on standard industry hardware and in virtualization environments linking devices regardless of location or configuration. Virtual appliances enable multiple operating systems to run on a single server or machine.

rPath and Novell have formed a “technology partnership” that they called a “significant industry milestone.” The deal helps customers “for the first time” combine open-source with a virtual appliance solution.

Red Hat Linux and SUSE Linux are both open source.

Novell will provide rPath with SUSE Linux Enterprise source code and maintenance patches for incorporation into rPath’s “appliance platform.”

rPath and Novell issued a statement that included endorsements of their partnership from SAP and VMware.

“rPath was founded with a single mission — simplify the delivery and consumption of software innovation. We pioneered virtual appliances to realize that vision,” said Billy Marshall, rPath’s co-founder and chief executive officer. "This is a terrific day for those ISVs who have made a strategic investment to deliver their application on Novell’s award-winning Linux technology. They can preserve the value of that investment for their customers while enhancing the value of their application through rPath’s industry leading virtual appliance technology.”

Eric Troan, who co-founded rPath, with Marshall, was among the top developers at Red Hat before leaving the firm. Marshall also was an executive at Red Hat.