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Ubuntu Karmic Koala 9.10 server edition improves cloud functionality

Ubuntu 9.10 brings improved cloud functionality, as well as updated file systems and MySQL. But some users want more deployment and configuration management tools.

Canonical's Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala is slated for release on Oct. 29, and it debuts Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) as a fully supported technology. UEC is an open-source cloud computing environment based on the same application programming interface (API) as Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2. While some users are enthused by the improved functionality, others cite several wish-list improvements that weren't incorporated into the Ubuntu release.

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Steve George, the director of support and services at Canonical Ltd., explained that the big push for UEC is an internal cloud computing capability.

"UEC is allows administrators to set up their own private cloud on your network," said George. "If you're using EC2, all the familiar capabilities will be there with your own security and network controls."

Ubuntu 9.10 Server Edition will also be available on the Amazon EC2 environment as an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) from Oct. 29 on.

Derik Pereira, a former IBM cloud computing architect, shared his experiences in building a cloud IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) with Ubuntu and Xen.

"I have layered Eucalyptus to churn out VMs, along with a system of monitoring for automation of applications and workload management," Pereira said. "My opinion is that Ubuntu 9.10 may indeed be the 'cloud IaaS OS' of choice because, when coupled with Eucalyptus, it does become better than sliced bread."

Canonical updating Ubuntu's core features
In addition to enabling private cloud capabilities, Canonical has focused on improving the core of Ubuntu in this release. MySQL 5.1 has been added and the directory stack and single sign-on tools have been upgraded for improved directory integration. Python-based Web app development framework Django also ships as a fully supported feature.

Canoncal's Ubuntu file systems are keeping up with the changes in the industry. While Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.4 includes ext4, it is only as a tech preview, whereas Ubuntu 9.10 includes ext4 as a full feature.

Jon Jensen, the CTO at End Point Corp. in New York, NY, is building a backup server and planning to implement Ubuntu 9.10 with ext4.

"We use RHEL/CentOS most other places, but RHEL 5 is getting dated and doesn't have ext4. We would likely use RHEL 6 if it were out," said Jensen.

Improvements have been made for better Xen (guest) and KVM (host and guest) virtualization support and to improve caching performance. Support for the USB 3.0 protocol has been included for faster transfer rates.

While there are some notable but incremental improvements...I don't see much that addresses our biggest pain points: deployment and configuration management.
Andrew Leonard, senior systems administrator,
Systems management support has been extended through support for the WBEM (Web-based enterprise management) protocols, allowing popular systems-management tools to interact more easily with Canonical's management tool for Ubuntu, Landscape.

"All of the large enterprise management platforms are progressively moving toward this standard platform, like Tivoli," said George. "The WBEM improvements make it easier for users to integrate these systems."

George also revealed that OpenLDAP authentication has been added.

"If you're running it in a large data center, you want to have a centralized authentication capability," George said. "OpenLDAP makes it easy to set up, so administrators can log in to any one of the machines."

Ubuntu features still wanted
Despite core improvements, end users may have wanted more work done before this release. Andrew Leonard, a senior systems administrator for a large research institution in the Pacific Northwest, shared a few items on his wish list that haven't been met by 9.10.

"While there are some notable but incremental improvements, such as ext4 and AppArmor enhancements, I don't see much that addresses our biggest pain points: deployment and configuration management," said Leonard. "On the configuration management side, Puppet has been in the Universe repository since at least Hardy and it looks like Karmic will have Chef in Universe. I'd really like to see Canonical launch something similar to -- or perhaps adopt -- products from Red Hat's Emerging Technology group."

Our Data Center Decisions 2009: Purchasing Intentions Survey found an increase in Ubuntu adoption on the server in 2009, while other distributions saw a decline. Ubuntu's steady release program and adoption of new technologies makes it attractive for Linux shops.

The next Ubuntu release, 10.04 (or Lucid Lynx), will be a long-term support (LTS) release, and is scheduled for April 2010.

What do you think of this article? Email Leah Rosin with your Linux concerns and questions.

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