Canonical offers tech support for clouds

Ubuntu + Eucalyptus = homegrown EC2

Canonical and its partner in clouds, Eucalyptus, have been working to create a stack of software that runs atop the Ubuntu Linux distribution and allows companies to build their own internal compute clouds that are compatible with Amazon's EC2 cloud.

This is all well and good, but what commercial data centers want in addition to code is official tech support.

Canonical today announced something it is calling Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Services, which as the name suggests is a tech support offering for clouds based on the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud variant of the Ubuntu software stack, which was released as a technical preview in April.

It said that Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud is now available as part of the Ubuntu 9.04 Server Edition stack, and that Canonical and Eucalyptus, the commercial entity behind the eponymous cloud management tool, to provide a single point of contact and interface for tech support through the Canonical support team for the cloud edition. Having forged the Eucalyptus partnership and hammered out the way support for cloud setups will be done, now Canonical is ready to start charging for tech support on internal clouds.

Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Services is priced based on the number of physical servers in the cloud as well as the number of virtual servers that are running atop those physical machines. As is the case for Ubuntu desktop and server support, Canonical is offering annual contracts with either standard (9x5 business hours) or advanced (24x7) coverage. An entry-level cloud support contract includes support for five physical machines and up to 25 virtual machines for $4,750 per year; a 24x7 contract costs $17,500 for the same setup. (The pricing is scaling proportionately with the number of hours in the week covered, which is fair enough.) Each additional physical server can get a support pack that can have up to ten virtual machines for $1,250 for standard support and $3,000 for advanced support.

If customers are set about building a big Ubuntu-based, EC2-compatible cloud, they can go all the way and get a site support contact, with unlimited servers and virtual machines - good for one physical location, not spanning multiple locations - for $90,000 per year for standard support and $150,000 per year for full-on support.

If you do the math, once you are building a cloud that has 73 or more servers (with as many as 705 virtual machines), it makes sense to get the site-wide support contract for the standard offering. And the crossover point for 24x7 support for an Ubuntu-based cloud is even lower, at 49 servers with a total of 465 virtual machines.

You can see the kind of support contract that Canonical wants people to write based on this pricing. If you do some more math, that works out to just under $130 per VM per year for standard support and just over $320 per VM per year for advanced support.

So how does the cloud support compare to regular Ubuntu Server Edition support? It is more expensive. For a single physical server, Ubuntu server support costs $750 per year for an annual standard contract and $2,470 for an annual advanced contract. If you back out the per-server charges on the site licenses with unlimited machines set at the crossover points outlined above, then per-server cloud support comes to $1,229 for 73 machines for standard 9x5 coverage and $3,051 for 49 machines for advanced 24x7 coverage.

The beauty of those site licenses is that adding any extra machines doesn't raise the support price one penny. So for big clouds - the kinds Canonical hopes to see now that it has embraced Eucalyptus - the cost per server could get very low indeed.

Say, for instance, you had a site license for 500 servers, which gives you support for up to 4,975 virtual machines. Then the per-server support looks more like $180 per machine per year for 9x5 coverage and $300 for 24x7 coverage; the cost per VM is basically one-tenth of that per year, or $1.50 per VM per month for 9x5 coverage and $2.50 per VM per month for 24x7 coverage. Those are numbers that a cloud provider can pass on to customers without even blinking.

You can get more information on Canonical's cloud support here, and learn more about the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud edition here. ®

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