Canonical Releases Ubuntu 14.10 With Tighter Docker and Cloud Foundry Integrations

Canonical, the UK-based developer of Ubuntu, on Thursday released the latest version of the Linux distribution extremely popular with developers, one offering even closer integration with several emerging open-source cloud technologies as well as tools to make it easier to use competing operating systems.

Ubuntu 14.10 includes even tighter integration with two open-source technologies some hail as the future of cloud computing: the Linux container system Docker and Cloud Foundry, an increasingly popular Platform-as-a-Service solution.

The latest Ubuntu version also enables use of its popular orchestration tool, Juju, for deploying rival operating systems.

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John Zannos, VP of cloud channels and alliances at Canonical, told CRN the new release exemplifies two ways in which Canonical is differentiating its Linux distribution: "as a platform for rapid innovation for cloud and scale-out, and a commitment to an open ecosystem for working with hardware providers and ISVs."

A new Ubuntu version comes out on a six-month release cycle every April and October.

Every fourth update the company considers a long-term support release -- an enterprise-grade stable and robust version supported for a five-year term.

But the interim releases, offered with nine-month support plans, are the ones that debut exciting, cutting-edge technologies, and 14.10 squarely fits that mold.

Ubuntu has long been a platform geared to support Linux containers, and Docker specifically, because of their popularity with developers for creating portable application environments. Zannos estimated that there are six times more containers hosting virtual workloads deployed within Ubuntu than on competing platforms.

"We at Canonical recognize containers are an important emerging technology, and Canonical has been an important contributor. The star of the container world most recently has been Docker," Mark Baker, manager of Canonical's server division, told CRN.

The new release ships with Docker 1.2 and adds the "capability for users to be able to deploy, manage and scale the Docker environment using our orchestration tools," Baker told CRN.

Canonical has also been working for months with Cloud Foundry developer, Pivotal, a venture funded by VMware and EMC. Together the companies developed a solution for the popular cloud platform to run on top of Ubuntu and within OpenStack-powered clouds.

"We've done a lot of work to package that and build support for the tooling," Baker said in regard to Cloud Foundry.

Zannos said the businesses he talks to frequently are making decisions about technology strategy looking ahead five to 10 years, and they increasingly are operating mixed environments and workloads.

Many of them like Ubuntu's tools, but want to use them across a wider variety of technologies, not just Linux.

For that reason, Ubuntu 14.10 adds the functionality allowing Juju to orchestrate operating systems like Windows or CentOS onto bare-metal servers.

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Chris Williams, director of technology for Alliance Technology Group, a system integrator in Hanover, Md. that has partnered with Canonical since May, said Ubuntu is unique in the tools it offers companies like his. Alliance Technology Group runs private and hybrid infrastructure platforms to offer customers applications as cloud services.

"I would just say Canonical, they continue to embrace emerging and latest and greatest technology sets within the open source community and integrate those into their platform to be one of the, if not the, leader in the cloud OS space. Canonical stays ahead of the pack," Williams told CRN.

Williams went on to say that in "cloudy environments," such as Amazon and Rackspace, it's one of the preferred choices.

"Definitely some of the enhancements around LXC with containers are great. They support some additional capabilities allowing users to spin up multiple containers without having to be a super user, which is really big when you start looking at multi-tenant environments," Williams .

Ubuntu is the only OS that allows LXC, or Linux containers, to be initiated with user-level controls and not super-user privileges.

Bundling Hadoop; Juno, the latest OpenStack release; and other popular tools into Ubuntu is "a great move," Williams said.

Roland Whitehead, CEO of Quru, a London-based solution provider that focuses on open-source products, said he was first sold on Ubuntu four years ago when his company, which was born as a software developer, started using the Linux distribution as a development platform.

"Although many would argue that it is not as robust or secure as other enterprise distributions out of the tin, we feel, as Linux specialists, that we have the ability to make it as secure and as robust as we need," Whitehead told CRN. "Today these solutions are fully deployed and run with the same level of uptime and reliability as the other enterprise Linux distributions running in the same data-center."

Whitehead said Canonical has taken a view that it needs to establish itself as a viable technical platform and lead the development of Linux. That's different from competitors that are trying to offer "the best enterprise-grade, fully supported, bullet-proof solutions."

It's an approach that motivates Canonical to take more risks when working with its users to push deployed Linux systems further, and allows the company to succeed with a development rate the competitors wouldn't risk.

"Ubuntu sits much closer to their competitors' upstream projects than their enterprise, commercially supported solutions. But, with a fully supported offering, can accommodate their user's requirements for a fully supported stack," Whitehead said.

Whitehead noted that while Canonical appears ahead of its rivals in its work with Linux containers, the company differentiates itself most by also offering desktop and mobile platform solutions that can run at multiple scales and on multiple architectures.

Zannos said that since the company was founded in 2004, the goal has been to build an operating system to really work "on a scale of a cloud world."

That Ubuntu now runs more than 70 percent of Linux workloads in AWS and, thanks to its early adoption, more than half of the world's OpenStack deployments, is testament to that strategy.

Zannos added, "while we have a direct sales team focused on winning early adopters, we've come with a very partner-centric model. That means basically designing ourselves to avoid channel conflict."