Ubuntu Server 11.10 leaps onto OpenStack clouds

A dreamy dwarf leopard for microservers

Right on time, the Ubuntu Server 11.10 operating system has tiptoed out onto the intertubes and wants to play with your workloads.

Developed under the codename "Oneiric Ocelot", the latest server release from Canonical – the commercial sponsor of the Ubuntu Linux distribution – brings a number of new features for building infrastructure and platform clouds. It also has the the ability to run on ARM-based systems – if you can find any.

Canonical has been pretty clear as it was developing Ubuntu Server 11.10 that it intended to move away from the Eucalyptus cloud fabric created by Eucalyptus Systems and that was a big part of the Ubuntu Server 10.04 Long Term Support (LTS) release from April 2010. In the wake of the announcement, Canonical calculated that there were around 12,000 clouds that were prototyping the Ubuntu-Eucalyptus combination to create private clouds that were compatible with Amazon's EC2 compute cloud. By May of this year, Marten Mickos, who used to be CEO of open source database maker MySQL and who now heads Eucalyptus Systems, was bragging that there were over 25,000 clouds based on the Eucalyptus fabric.

But development and vendor momentum has clearly shifted to OpenStack, the alternative and completely open source cloud fabric that was started by NASA and Rackspace Hosting back in July 2010.

Now, as you can see from the release notes for Ubuntu Server 11.10, the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud bits, which included the Eucalyptus fabric, are no longer part of the CD image or in the security-supported main archive. And the "Diablo" release of the OpenStack fabric is now part of the release and Mark Baker, product manager on Canonical's server team, tells El Reg that it is ready for production use and has full support through Ubuntu Advantage.

Baker says that Eucalyptus has not been banished from Canonical and that the company still works with Eucalyptus Systems on engagements. In fact, the new Juju service deployment and coordination management tool for both physical and cloudy servers will work with both OpenStack and Eucalyptus fabrics. Juju is in tech preview and was formerly known as Ensemble. Rather than thinking at the RPM or Deb package level, Juju goes up one level of abstraction and thinks in terms of service based on a collection of software packages that interact with each other.

Plenty of Juju beans

Juju complements Orchestra, a collection of Ubuntu provisioning and management tools centered around the Cobbler tool for deploying Ubuntu Server 11.10 more quickly and easily, and tools like Puppet and Chef, which are popularly used to set and change system configurations on operating systems once they are installed. You don't create a script for Juju operations, but rather a charm. (How quirky of them, it would seem, but juju means "magic" in Zulu while ubuntu means, in a rough translation, the action of being open, accessible and helpful to other people within a community.) Juju is written in Python, but you can create a charm using any language and you can share it.

As Ubuntu Server 11.10 hits the internet, there are more than 40 applications that have been certified to work with Juju, including the usual suspects like Apache, MySQL, and PHP as a group or all of the elements of a Hadoop distribution including file systems and NoSQL data stores. In essence, you get to treat a collection of interrelated packages as a single package and you can spit it out onto a piece of bare iron or cloudy infrastructure based on Ubuntu running on Eucalyptus or OpenStack – and equally importantly, you can use it to add nodes to a cluster or delete them with one click.

With Ubuntu Server 11.10, the UEC name is as gone as the Eucalyptus fabric. Now the fabric based on OpenStack is called Ubuntu Cloud Infrastructure and it runs Ubuntu Cloud Guest images, which used to be known as Just Enough Operating System, or JEOS, images in the past.

Ubuntu Server 11.10 is based on the 3.0.0-12.20 Ubuntu kernel, and the Xen hypervisor is being brought back into the operating system alongside KVM. Xen is only in tech preview now, however, and will not be fully supported until the Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS release comes out in April 2012.

The support for ARM processors in Ubuntu Server 11.10 is also in tech preview and not intended for production use quite yet. Baker says that Canonical has been working with ARM server processor upstart Calxeda to do its testing and development as well distributing PandaBoards from Texas Instruments, which has an OMAP4430 processor, based on the dual-core Cortex-A9 design from ARM Holdings, to developers so they can compile and test packages.

Not every application or feature in Ubuntu Server 11.10 runs on the ARM architecture – for instance, the Xen and KVM hypervisors don't work on ARM yet, but LXC containers do – but Baker says the 80-20 rule holds. Between now and the Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS release next year, Canonical will be working with ARM processor and server-makers to push performance. "We know the performance of some packages needs work," says Baker.

The plan is for ARM processor support to be in production by the 12.04 LTS release.

Exactly what else will be in the Ubuntu Server 12.04 release will be hammered out starting next week and further at the Ubuntu Developer Summit at the end of October in Orlando, Florida. Some 600 developers will get together to set the agenda for the next LTS release. ®

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