Canonical celebrates Cloud freedoms with new Ubuntu

The newest version of Ubuntu Linux comes with Cloud Foundry and the latest version of Docker

Canonical continues to aggressively equip its flagship Ubuntu Linux server software with more tools to help users build and run clouds.

The open-source OS now comes with the latest edition of the Docker virtualization container technology and, for the first time, Pivotal's Cloud Foundry stack for running platform services. Both software packages allow customers to more easily move their applications and services around the data center and onto the cloud.

"Until not that long ago, people built applications to run in a particular application server environment that may have been supported only on a limited number of operating systems or database environments. They had a restricted choice of options," said Mark Baker, Canonical cloud and server product manager.

The new Ubuntu aims to give users more freedom in moving around their workloads.

Canonical usually releases a new version of Ubuntu every six months. This new release, version 14.10, is an interim release, Baker said, which means Canonical will provide support for the OS for the next 9 months. The previous version, 14.04, is a long-term release that will be supported for five years.

Ubuntu 14.10 features version 1.2 of Docker, a new and increasingly popular type of virtualization technology for placing applications within lightweight virtual containers.

"Containers are extremely popular at the moment," Baker said.

Ubuntu is unique among Linux distributions in that it offers user-level control of Docker containers. This allows any user to spin up a Docker container without the need for administrator privileges.

In addition, this version of Ubuntu is the first to include, in preview mode, Cloud Foundry, which allows the server to run platform services, such as database services or services for frameworks such as Django or Spring.

Platform service software such as Cloud Foundry takes care of a lot of administrative duties of running applications, such as scaling a heavily used application across multiple servers. Cloud Foundry can run either directly on the server or on the OpenStack infrastructure service software.

Platform services are good for managing multiple applications in a uniform and time-saving way, Baker said.

Cloud Foundry is also a good way to avoid lock-in to a particular distribution. Applications prepared for Cloud Foundry can be moved between Ubuntu and any other OS that supports Cloud Foundry.

Canonical has also updated its Metal-as-a-Service hardware provisioning tool in Ubuntu so it can work with Microsoft Windows Server. This lets an administrator use the tool to install Windows on a bare server from over the network. Previous versions of the tool could only install Linux distributions.

Canonical has updated Ubuntu with the latest version of the OpenStack cloud platform software. The new version, Juno, includes more granular policy controls for object storage and support for Network Functions Virtualization, which puts network operations on standard hardware instead of dedicated appliances.

For those who wish to take advantage of speedy SSDs (solid-state drives), Ubuntu now offers bcache. This software can designate an SSD to serve as a caching layer to hold the most consulted data and applications on a server while offloading older or less-consulted material onto less expensive spinning disks. This can make servers more responsive.

Canonical, a privately held company, is the commercial sponsor for Ubuntu, one of the most popular Linux distributions. More than 60 percent of the Linux images used on Amazon Web Services are Ubuntu, Baker reported. The distribution is also used by service providers such as China Telecom, Comcast, Korea Telecom, NEC, Orange France, Time Warner Cable and Verizon.

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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