Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Latest Ubuntu Server Packaged With Hyperscale Goodies 

It is October, and that is how you know it is time for various Linuxes and the OpenStack cloud controller to get their semi-annual updates of shiny new code. In the case of Canonical's Ubuntu Server 14.10, the core Linux operating system, its integrated OpenStack implementation, and a bunch of other features aimed at hyperscale deployments are being refreshed.

Ubuntu Server 14.10 is what Canonical calls an interim release, and that means it is one that does not have the Long Term Support coverage that the 14.04 release from April this year has. With the interim releases, the technology embodied in the stack of over 30,000 packages in Ubuntu Server is a little bit more on the bleeding edge and are supported for anywhere from nine to eighteen months. From the release roadmap, it looks like this 14.10 release will be supported for a year and a half, just like Ubuntu Server 12.10, which puts it well into 2016, but the release notes for the operating system say it will only be supported for nine months. For many hyperscale shops, even that short cycle means it is suitable for deployment. Enterprise customers, who are generally more conservative, tend to go with the LTS releases, which have two years of hardware and maintenance updates and another three years of maintenance updates. By having two kinds of releases, Canonical can address the needs of customers running at different speeds and needs while still offering support contracts for both.

Neither Red Hat nor SUSE Linux operates in this fashion with their operating system lifecycles. They have a development release that does not have tech support and a commercial release that has a decade of support. Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server are both offered with seven year support contracts that include updates for new hardware, plus three years of maintenance and security updates beyond that without new hardware updates. Companies who really do not want to move off a very old release of RHEL or SLES can buy an additional three years of extended support, but it costs.


Everybody is mad for software containers these days, and Ubuntu Server 14.10, nick-named Utopic Unicorn for those of you who keep track of Canonical's campy monikers for its releases, has the latest-greatest revs of Docker and LXC containers embedded inside. Specifically, the latest Docker 1.7 and LXC 1.1 software containers are supported. (Docker used to itself ride on top of LXC containers, but went native a few iterations back.) With this update, LXC containers is getting a new user-level container. Up until now, only system administrators with root access to Linux could create containers, but now users can do it. This means, for instance, that developers can fire up many containers to test different iterations of code, or multi-tiers of code, in an application.

At this point, Canonical is positioned to benefit from the uptake of both Linux-based software container technologies. "Docker gets a lot of attention, but LXC is not getting left behind at all," explains Mark Baker, server and cloud product manager at Canonical, to EnterpriseTech. He cites recent usage data for deploying LXC containers in conjunction with the OpenStack cloud controller. "I do not think it is the case of one versus the other. LXC has been around longer and follows its own development path." Baker says that both are popular in software development environments, where a lot of new virtualization technology gets tested out first because of the complexity of setting up multiple test environments to do quality assurance testing. LXC containers are also being deployed inside of various networking gear so switch and related applications can be run on embedded processors in the gear side-by-side instead of on multiple physical appliances; this is particularly popular among telecommunications and service provider firms who are looking to converge their server and networking platforms, often on OpenStack. And more on the enterprise front, Baker says that Wall Street banks are messing around with both Docker and LXC containers to use them as a lightweight means to make applications portable across systems and out into the cloud.

Canonical was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the Eucalyptus cloud controller, just acquired by Hewlett-Packard a month ago, and switched its allegiance to OpenStack a few years back because the newer software was a completely open source tool backed by a much larger community. (HP has been a staunch supporter of OpenStack, and uses it as the underpinnings of its Helion cloud. HP bought Eucalyptus mainly to provide an AWS-compatible alternative to OpenStack.) The new Ubuntu Server 14.10 release includes the "Juno" update of OpenStack, which shipped last week and which is also known as OpenStack 2014.2. All of the key components of OpenStack – Nova, Keystone, Glance, Cinder, Neutron, Swift, Ceilometer, Heat, and Horizon – have all been updated, and it is still not trivial to do an OpenStack upgrade from earlier versions, warns Canonical. The OpenStack setup also includes options for installing Hadoop and its Spark in-memory processing extensions on virtual machines atop OpenStack. Hive, Elasticsearch, PigLatin, Storm, and other Hadoop add-ons are also included in beta form with OpenStack, and it will be interesting to see if Canonical goes all the way and provides tech support for Hadoop as it does OpenStack as a component of its stack.

The Cloud Foundry platform cloud software championed by the former VMware unit and EMC subsidiary Pivotal is also a part of Ubuntu Server 14.10, albeit in technical preview not in commercial-grade form. Baker says that Cloud Foundry was itself developed and deployed on Ubuntu Server from the get-go, and the majority of Cloud Foundry installations are currently on Ubuntu Server as well. Cloud Foundry can be installed on bare metal or on top of OpenStack using the Juju orchestration tool. Pivotal and Canonical have been working for over a year to integrate Cloud Foundry with Ubuntu Server and its management tools.

Further on the management front, the Metal-as-a-Service, or MaaS, tool to deploy Ubuntu on bare-metal machines has been updated with a 1.7 release. Now the MaaS tool can not only deploy Ubuntu Server instances, but it can also deploy CentOS 6.X, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP3, and Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 on naked iron. (Technically, says Baker, it will also deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but the shops it works with tend to favor CentOS, which has fewer licensing encumbrances. Both CentOS and RHEL have been tested with MaaS.)

The Juju 1.2.1 orchestration tool now also supports the management of Windows workloads, which Ubuntu project leader Mark Shuttleworth was showing off at the OpenStack Summit in April this year down in Atlanta deploying Windows on bare iron and then SharePoint on top of a hypervisor running on Windows in a virtual machine. This hybrid operating system and application support is something that enterprise and service provider customers are asking for, since they tend to have multiple operating systems for their workloads. Juju has a new graphical user interface called Machine View, which as the name suggests gives a machine view of applications running on a scale-out cluster of servers.

The Linux 3.16 kernel in the Ubuntu Server 14.10 supports 64-bit X86 processors as well as 64-bit Power and 64-bit ARM chips. The important Power chip from IBM is the Power8, the company's latest processor and the one at the heart of both its scale-out and scale-out plans now that it has sold off its X86 server business to Lenovo. Baker says that IBM and Canonical have done a lot of work together to get the Juju orchestration tool and its "charm" templates for automating application deployment working well on Power8 systems. As for 64-bit ARM chips, the only one that Baker can talk about with the 14.10 release is the X-Gene 1 from Applied Micro, with "others set to follow soon." It is very likely that AMD's "Seattle" A Series ARM chip is also supported, but it has not launched yet. Canonical has never supported IBM System z mainframes or Itanium-based machines, and it will likely not start any time soon.

One Response to Latest Ubuntu Server Packaged With Hyperscale Goodies

  1. Jay Wren says:

    Article refers to juju 1.2.1, but I think you mean 1.21. There was no 1.2 version of juju.

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