Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Ubuntu Core Targets Container Deployment 

Canonical, the company formed to promote commercialization of the Ubuntu OS, is targeting container deployments with a "Snappy" version of its Ubuntu Core, the latest rendition of open source OS for the cloud that comes with transactional, or image-based, updates.

Under development "in plain sight" for two years and widely used on mobile devices, Canonical said this week it is bringing the Snappy Ubuntu Core to the cloud in hopes of taking on rival container technologies from Red Hat and Core OS. "We're bringing the goodness to Ubuntu to the cloud," asserts Ubuntu and Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth.

Ubuntu Core is billed as a minimal server image containing the same libraries as Ubuntu while providing applications through a simpler, "snappy" approach. Meanwhile, transactional systems management targets cloud deployment generally and container deployments specifically.

Ubuntu Core provides transactional updates along with "rigorous application isolation,” Shuttleworth added. It is being targeted as a small, secure platform for Docker deployment along with Snappy packages for other application containers and cloud services.

The Snappy packages are a second-generation version of what Canonical was providing to carriers to deliver applications to mobile devices. Hence, Canonical "hid this technology in plain sight" for several years, Shuttleworth stressed.

It has been secured for production on the cloud with Canonical's AppArmor kernel security system that isolates applications from each other. That approach is intended to make it safer to install applications from different sources during cloud deployments.

While isolating apps, the underlying primitives in the kernel security structure provide links to those applications that do need to communicate. The result, the company claims, is "a trustworthy platform for scale-out computing."

Shuttleworth also stressed that Ubuntu Core is smaller than Core OS, for example, and can use Docker's existing container orchestration system. At the same time, Canonical strived to preserve Ubuntu attributes preferred by cloud developers.

The company also said its transaction update approach dovetails with Docker's goal of delivering applications to the cloud. In endorsing Ubuntu Core, Docker CEO Ben Golub noted that many developers are already using Ubuntu as their base operating system for delivering applications from workstations to the cloud. Snappy Ubuntu Core would make it easier to host Docker deployments, Golub said.

Ubuntu Core stems from earlier work to securely deliver system and application updates to phones by combining Snappy technology with and application confinement system. The Snappy machine includes: a system layer provided by Canonical; a framework layer that extends a user's base system in collaboration with the company; and a set of Snappy apps provided directly by vendors.

The OS and application files are separated as a set of distinct, read-only files, Canonical said. Hence, an update requires only a new version of a read-only image.

Along with Docker application deployment, Canonical is targeting Ubuntu Core at cloud container farms and platform-as-a-service offerings.

Free for developers, Canonical said an alpha version of Ubuntu Core is available now, initially on Microsoft Azure cloud platform. In addition, KVM images can be downloaded for local Linux desktop development.

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