Ubuntu edging towards OpenStack

Around this time last year we were tracking the development of the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud, a Eucalyptus-based solution that is bundled into the Ubuntu installation from 9.10  onwards and allows you to install a IaaS cloud into which you subsequently install Ubuntu Server instances, rather than directly installing an Ubuntu Server. The Eucalyptus proposition is that the cloud you create is identical from an API – and therefore a tooling – perspective  to an Amazon EC2 cloud, and the same Ubuntu instances can run inside  it, and even can be cloud-bursted out to it.  Canonical make a lot of this duality in their positioning of Eucalyptus and the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud. It feels very-much like an “onramp” message that we hear from VMware.

Ubuntu releases twice a year like clockwork in April and October.  The latest  version  10.10 known as MaverickMeerkat is due out on 10.10.10. As we mentioned in previous posts, Ubuntu is considered to be the most widely-adopted Linux distribution, although it is predominantly a client-side platform.  That said, Ubuntu is used as a server platform – typically in hosting companies rather than enterprises and the size of its community means that it often creates trends in the industry.  For, example, Ubuntu never adopted Xen and went with Qumranet’s  KVM in Ubuntu 8.04 in April 2008.  A move followed by Red Hat.

Canonical – who are aggressively “free software” and largely control the destiny of Ubuntu, had obviously worked with Eucalyptus who own their IPR outright and have a paid “enterprise version”, but it always seemed a slightly sticky relationship.  Eucalyptus have since acquired a new CEO with even more of an “enterprise” focus, and a more aggressively Open Source project called OpenStack has emerged to address perceived scalability and openness issues with Eucalyptus.  And it turns out that OpenStack is now supported in Ubuntu 10.10.

Now, before we get too excited (that means you, Gavin at the Register), it is worth bearing in mind

  • nobody really cares about 10.10 – at least from a Server perspective.   10.04 is a Long Term Support (LTS) release supported until April 2015.  10.10 is a regular release, and is supported only till April 2012.
  • Eucalyptus is supported officially by Ubuntu, it is in the “Main” repository
  • OpenStack is externally-maintained it is in the “Universe” repository.
  • Eucalyptus is bound into the install process for Ubuntu Server
  • OpenStack must be installed into an existing install.

However, it is worth remembering that Eucalyptus was once in the “Universe” repository and migrated to “Main” in 9.04.

It’s hard really to understand the position of Ubuntu in all of this, Canonical is a commercial organization, a private company that makes money not out of software subscriptions, but out of supporting the ecosystem of Ubuntu users. Clearly some money was changing hands in this whole Eucalyptus/Amazon/Ubuntu alliance but for what exactly is unclear.

There is certainly a lot of Ubuntu running on Amazon, and Amazon is looking to facilitate an onramp without open-sourcing its own infrastructure. Eucalyptus, however, may no longer be seeing Ubuntu as core to its plans. It is definitely not the fast route to an Enterprise sales model. It is also interesting to try and guage adoption of the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud.  There were claims at the beginning of the year of 12,000 active installations. If so, and given the relatively low UEC traffic on the Ubuntu Forums we have our doubts, how many of these were standalone, or EC2 onramps, and how many were likely to divert to a paid version of Eucalyptus?

In the meanwhile, OpenStack is moving forward.  Doubtless it doesn’t have 12,000 installs but it does still have momentum. It has a governance model (more on that in a future post) and it has committed to maintaining its support of an EC2-like API for the foreseeable future (although the core API is still Rackspace-derived). We will keep an eye on this space and we do anticipate some additional movement towards OpenStack in Ubuntu versions leading up to 12.04. This is the next LTS release, and it may flip from Eucalyptus to OpenStack.

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