Ubuntu Server 13.04 targets carriers and the big data crowd

It’s Ubuntu release time again. On Thursday, version 13.04 of the venerable Linux distribution will come out, with the server version touting several new tricks for those using it in cloud deployments. It’s not a long-term support (LTS) release – you’ll have to wait another year for that, if you’re being cautious — but this “Raring Ringtail” version provides an opportunity to test out new features beforehand.

New features

First off, the default installation is for a virtualized environment. As Mark Baker, Ubuntu Server product manager at sponsor company Canonical, told me, this is because users are increasingly deploying the OS on hypervisors and Canonical wants to show off the OS’s capabilities there.

“While KVM has been big on Ubuntu since 2008, it’s not the only game in town,” Baker said. “We’re seeing customers wanting to understand integration or compatibility between ESX(s vmw) and Ubuntu, or even Hyper-V(s msft) and Ubuntu, and we’re ensuring testing on these – and of course KVM and Xen — so when we are engaged with customers or users we can say we know Ubuntu provides a robust experience on the prevalent hypervisors.”

The other major aspect of this release is its integration with the new Grizzly release of OpenStack. Canonical has been involved with OpenStack since the start, and the release cycles for the two products are aligned (Grizzly came out a few weeks ago).

Ubuntu 13.04’s Juju orchestration “charms” have been updated to deploy OpenStack for high availability – for example, when the user deploys MySQL, the charm will set up 3 nodes in a failover configuration, and a similar approach applies to the deployment of the Rabbit messaging server. Of course, those deploying in a test environment won’t be too keen on running 2 or 3 of everything, so it will still be possible to install in a “less highly available way”, as Baker put it. The Juju GUI has also seen a lot of work this cycle “to improve usability”, he added.

Meanwhile, the Ceph storage subsystem is now fully integrated with Ubuntu and OpenStack, in order to please Canonical’s telco and service provider clients, and Ubuntu’s Floodlight OpenFlow controller has also been updated. Although Canonical and VMware(s vmw) are working closely on Nicira, “having an open-source alternative to Nicira is also important,” Baker pointed out.

Carrier adoption

Speaking of carriers and service providers, this is the market segment where Canonical appears to be thriving.

“OpenStack certainly has been the biggest growth areas for us in the last 12 months,” Baker said. “We have got engaged with the types of customers that we could only have dreamed of, looking back a few years. OpenStack is gaining adoption with carriers, and most people doing that to scale are doing that with OpenStack on Ubuntu. Most of the major telcos, the global names that you’ll see, are deploying their OpenStack on Ubuntu.”

Baker also claimed that OpenStack is seeing traction in the big data space, with users deploying Hadoop and Cassandra on Ubuntu – he suggested this may be out of “developer affinity” with the Linux distro.

“It’s fair to say the bread and butter of our user base is running web infrastructure,” Baker said. “A lot of that user base is moving that web infrastructure into the cloud. We’ve gained significant popularity on Azure – there is a fair proportion of that running Linux. While you wouldn’t think it a natural fit to provide Ubuntu on a Microsoft cloud, we actually think it’s quite exciting.”