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Ubuntu 14.04: Is Canonical taking on too much?

Tom Henderson | July 15, 2014
Some hits and some misses as Canonical tries to cover everything from the smartphone to the desktop to the cloud.

There are some additional components that now allow somewhat incredible scale-out potential for Ubuntu server instances, like those seen in the public cloud at Amazon Web Services, Joyent, Rackspace, and others that employ OpenStack.

There are updates to several key packages. Ubuntu 14.04 supports via LTS, Apache Tomcat v7, Postgresql v9.3, Qemu 2.0, Libvirt v1.2, LXC v1, and MySQL v5.5. Open vSwitch 2.0 is also available as a virtual switch, but has also been available for platforms like Xen, VirtualBox, and KVM. Its inclusion is largely poised towards cloud support in this edition.

The Linux 3.13 kernel update most notably has a change in Linux firewall security, as the old-in-the-tooth iptables firewall has been updated to nftables, a firewalling methodology that's backward-compatible with iptables via translation utilities.

The translation utilities allow updates via translation tools so that the new firewalling can be scripted, although we sense that admins needn't fear it-- all pretty simple to manage, we found. Nftables creates a virtualized kernel space where packets can be inspected in ways that permit more fine-tuned acceptance/rejection criteria. The kernel also has updated memory handling, and better multi-core CPU handling.

The Cloud versions of 14.04 are based on "certified" images that are ready to host internally, or port to specific cloud vendors. OpenStack is the preferred provisioning methodology, and Canonical has updated their Juju bus-communications apps with Juju charms that allow tailored deployments with rapid deployment, teardown, configuration, and management components. Here, the role of Juju charms has expanded, and can also be used with private clouds using the Eucalyptus framework.

Canonical supplies a cloud image and Juju charms that enable the OpenStack 2014.1 "Icehouse" release, one that includes more framework/stack elements for rapid deployment and control of spawned instances of Ubuntu Server 14.04. Canonical's optional Landscape management service is available, too.

We used and deployed Cloud Edition (AWS), bare metal and virtualized Server Edition, and virtualized instances of both editions (which aren't very different from each other) successfully and without drama.

Performance is difficult to measure, although the Linux 3.13 kernel has been specifically designed to remove performance roadblocks and manage memory better. There are no comprehensive or empirical methods to quantitatively measure performance, because there are so many possible instance deployment profiles.

The aforementioned Docker app manages an emerging application construction: LXC containers. Already long popular via Davlik in the Android app world (and conceptualized by Sun), the methods used by Docker forms a framework that manages application container resource, content, and network isolation for applications. It's more than just sandboxing.

In theory, applications then become objects and are portable in and among hosting platforms. In this case, the hosting platform is Ubuntu Server. It's high-level CLI implementation makes execution of apps compiled to use Docker as easy as: docker run (myapplication) to execute the container atomization process.


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