Joyent offers Canonical-customized Ubuntu as a cloud service

Cloud service Joyent envisions more hybrid deployments using both Linux and SmartOS

Joyent wants to bring Linux into its fold of advanced computing cloud services, and has started offering an enterprise-supported version of the Canonical Ubuntu distribution that has been modified to take advantage of Joyent's infrastructure.

"The two companies actually complement each other, from an engineering perspective," said Bryan Cantrill, Joyent senior vice president of engineering, speaking of Joyent and Canonical, which manages the Ubuntu distribution.

Joyent already offers stock editions of Ubuntu, as well as another Linux distribution, CentOS. Joyent support for these images, however, is limited. The new version of Ubuntu, however, will be fully supported by Canonical.

"If you have an Ubuntu related issue on the Joyent cloud, you can be assured that someone will support those images," Cantrill said.

The idea behind the specially crafted distribution is to allow Joyent users to take advantage of the many tools and software programs available for Linux, as well as for Ubuntu users to fully utilize the Joyent infrastructure.

To date, Joyent has primarily offered an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) through its own SmartOS. SmartOS is a derivative of Oracle's Solaris that has been customized with a number of performance-enhancing technologies, such as a system cache that improves I/O (input/output) throughput and the inclusion of KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine). Joyent built its infrastructure to take advantage of these technologies, and has served customers such as LinkedIn and the THQ video game publisher.

Joyent envisions that many of its customers will use SmartOS to power back-end, database-driven workloads, where fast performance is critical, while using the Ubuntu distribution for the user-facing Web-tier duties.

"This gives you a path to have a hybrid-ized environment where you have some Ubuntu and some SmartOS," Cantrill said. "We know there are a lot of Ubuntu customers who want to use SmartOS in some parts of the infrastructure."

One early user of Joyent's Ubuntu virtual machines has been the TaskRabbit online odd-job marketplace. The company runs Joyent's in-house SmartOS for its database tier and uses Ubuntu to run the Ruby-based application tier.

Canonical has modified Ubuntu in a number of ways specifically for Joyent. This distribution can connect to the Joyent metadata API (application programming interface). As an image is being provisioned, Ubuntu can check the metadata API to get customer-specific settings that can be used to automate the configuration of the virtual machine. Encryption and disk layout can be configured by way of this process, for instance.

Joyent is also integrating node.js with the Ubuntu Juju service orchestration tool. Maintained by Joyent, node.js is a popular open-source, server-side platform for running JavaScript code. Joyent is developing a node.js Charm, which is a set of Juju commands for deploying a piece of software as a service. This will allow customers to automatically deploy node.js on Ubuntu virtual images.

Initially, Joyent will offer the 12.04 LTS "Long Term Release" and 13.10 editions of Ubuntu. When Canonical issues new versions of Ubuntu, it will prepare a new specific version for Joyent as well.

The new Ubuntu distribution can be run on Joyent starting at US$0.020 per hour. Pricing for the Canonical-backed enterprise support has not been established yet, though customers can also obtain routine support through the company's Ubuntu Advantage support service -- which offers support beginning at US$337 per year.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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