CoreOS Linux distro lands on the Google Cloud Platform

Designed for massive server deployments, CoreOS consumes less than 200MB of working memory per instance

CoreOS, a new lightweight Linux distribution customized for massive server deployments, has found a home on the Google Cloud Platform, giving organizations an easy way to test and use the software for their clusters and distributed computer programs.

CoreOS will be offered in the Google cloud alongside other Linux distributions such as Debian, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Suse.

Two Rackspace engineers, Alex Polvi and Brandon Philips, along with Michael Marineau, developed CoreOS to better fit Linux into what they saw as an emerging use of the open-source operating system kernel, that of powering lots of cloud-based virtual servers. They forked Google's Chrome OS, also Linux-based, to use as their starting point.

Google has offered CoreOS as a preview since December, but on Thursday it went live as a full-fledged service offered on the Google Cloud Platform.

The distribution has a number of novel engineering designs intended to make it work especially well in the cloud.

The average CoreOS instance consumes only 161MB of working memory, less than half of what other distributions typically consume.

The distribution can be updated more quickly due to its novel use of two partitions. One can contain the current version of the OS while the OS is being updated in the other. That means the software can be updated all at once instead of package by package. Users can also elect to have the distribution update itself automatically.

All applications that run on the distribution run in Docker virtualized containers, so they can be started almost instantaneously.

CoreOS is also designed to work natively in a cluster. Applications can run across several nodes and be managed through a service directory. The distribution also has several built-in tools for distributed computing, including distributed locking and master election.

The distribution has built-in support for the Preboot eXecution Environment (PXE), which allows for remote booting.

In addition to Google, CoreOS is also offered by Amazon EC2 (Elastic Cloud Compute), Rackspace Cloud, Brightbox Cloud and Vultr VPS (Virtual Private Servers). It also runs on a variety of cloud hosting platforms, including OpenStack, VMware, Libvirt and Eucalyptus.

The current version of CoreOS, called CoreOS 317.0.0, runs Linux kernel version 3.14.4 and Docker 0.11.1.

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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