Ubuntu 14.10 tries pulling a Steve Ballmer on cloudy offerings

Oi, Windows, centOS and openSUSE – behave, we're all friends here

“It hurts my eyes,” Steve Ballmer once joshed during a demonstration of Microsoft’s Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1 managing Red Hat Linux.

“I know that's an important capability of the virtual server technology for our customers,” continued a humbled Ballmer.

The ex-Microsoft chief exec's Saul-like conversion followed years of hectoring of customers that it was Redmond's way or nothing, which failed to deter customers from installing Linux and saw Microsoft lose platform revenues.

Software specialist Canonical has not preached against Windows or other Linuxes, but finds itself in a curiously similar position to Microsoft nine years ago. The computing world's fabric is undergoing one of its periodic periods of re-alignment. Yes, around cloud, but more specifically around types of cloud.

Proprietary clouds in particular come from Microsoft, Google and Amazon, while open-source cloud offerings are provided by OpenStack.

On OpenStack, it’s the 1990s Linux time again, only this time around tech firms are slapping their badges on the OpenStack APIs instead and selling support to go with them.

Canonical has today released a version of Ubuntu Server that does what Microsoft did in 2005 – it embraces rivals to manage them rather than risk “our way or nothing”. Ubuntu Server 14.10 features a beta of Metal as a Service (MaaS) 1.7, and Juju 1.2.1, a GUI-based provisioning tool that support Windows and Hyper V, CentOS and openSUSE.

That means you can now orchestrate and manage Windows servers along with Windows workloads, such as SQL Server on bare-metal servers or as virtual machine instances running on an OpenStack cloud – Ubuntu’s OpenStack cloud, called, yep, Ubuntu OpenStack.

Also, you are similarly set up to manage CentOS and openSUSE.

JuJu is also updated to support a non-OpenStack cloud: Cloud Foundry, the platform-as-a-service developed by VMware and spun out with Pivotal Software.

Ubuntu’s orchestration tool has been updated to work with Cloud Foundry’s 12 different parts, now available as JuJu charms.

Other Ubuntu 14.10 cloud-friendly features include the addition of user-level container control to Docker 1.2. You can now spin up containers without need for root-access or somebody that has super privileges – meaning you can get going faster.

The cloud likes Ubuntu: 55 per cent pick Ubuntu as the host operating system for OpenStack – and Hewlett-Packard is among them, according to an OpenStack poll from a year ago.

Fifty-two per cent of guest instances on Amazon’s AWS are today on Ubuntu.

Canonical has the chance at a fair crack at OpenStack, too: like Oracle, Red Hat and Hewlett-Packard, Canonical has a hat in the ring with its own OpenStack distro.

But, like Microsoft in 2005, there’s a risk of it not playing well with others – which could mean losing the platform to those “others”. People don’t change platforms often, so once clouds pick their host operating system, they are gone for good. Right now, there's plenty of room for others to rush in and take Canonical's business.

Unlike Microsoft in 2005, Canonical has been working with the rivals in Redmond and in the community, but the stakes are similar. Mike Baker, Canonical server and cloud product manager, told The Register that cloud infrastructure and OpenStack has been the focus since 2011. Before that it was “Ubuntu everywhere you wanted".

“A lot of people are designing and building infrastructure that will be the next wave of computing ... people are evaluating their vendor relationships as they make their step to cloud and all want to avoid lock in," he added.

"We want to offer an OpenStack distribution and Ubuntu server that’s able to interoperate and connect with a great many different technologies — we need to be able to support Windows and multiple Linux distributions in addition to Ubuntu,” Baker said.

The platforms and the names change, but the issues don't. ®

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