Canonical wants to make OpenStack less of a pain to deploy with Ubuntu Server 13.10

Canonical will release version 13.10 of Ubuntu Server in a week’s time, not coincidentally in sync with the release of Havana, the latest version of OpenStack. Yes, Ubuntu is delving ever deeper into the cloud market, and as per usual the new iteration will attempt to make it easier than ever before for an enterprise or service provider to deploy OpenStack.

That boost in the “Saucy Salamander” version comes through an enhancement to Ubuntu’s built-in service orchestration tool, Juju, which offers so-called “charms” for deploying each web service and describing their relation to other services.

Charm offensive

Previously, users would have to deploy one charm for, say, the OpenStack Nova cloud controller, and another for Swift storage, and then run a command to add the relationship between the two. That was usually best managed by writing a script, but Ubuntu 13.10 introduces the concept of bundles — predefined sets of charms. And guess what, a standout example of this continuous deployment push is the OpenStack bundle.

“If OpenStack has had bad press it’s because it has been fairly complex to set up,” Ubuntu Server Product Manager Mark Baker told me. “With the public cloud providers we work with, getting the initial deployment up and running can be a bit of a challenge … We’ve made steps to try to improve that.”

Ubuntu 13.10 also features Juju colocation, so many services can run on one instance, and something called Juju Inspector, to help sysadmins more easily keep an eye on and manage services and their connections.

Charms aside, Ubuntu is also trying to improve its pitch to service providers and enterprises that already have a big VMware(s vmw) estate by improving interoperability with VMware ESX. Ubuntu Server itself has “grown up” on KVM, as Baker put it, but in version 13.4 it introduced the ability to run a virtual machine on ESX. However, the functionality was limited — each individual host node needed its own controller — and Saucy Salamander now makes it possible to move VMs between different physical hosts.

Of course, that particular feature is part of Havana, not just Ubuntu Server 13.10, but Baker noted that it was a feature to which Canonical had contributed following close work with VMware. “Of all the people in the OpenStack community, not everyone is friendly with VMware, but we have a good relationship with them,” he said. “It’s a good partnership for us to get more engaged with some of the enterprise customers.”

Speed and LTS support

Ubuntu now also comes with a much faster installer, designed for rapidly provisioning nodes in a cloud environment. Again using the example of an OpenStack node, Baker said the installation time had been slashed from around 10-11 minutes to just 2.5 minutes.

LXC Linux containers can now be cloned in less than a second — “We want to continue very much to appeal to the devop” — and there’s also a new automated command line for starting a KVM image of Ubuntu, updates and all.

Now, as always, the thing to remember with Ubuntu is that a “long term support” (LTS) version only comes out every two years, and the next LTS version will only come out in April 2014. For obvious reasons, enterprises tend to stick with LTS versions.

So, bearing that in mind, OpenStack Havana will also be made available to those on the last LTS version of Ubuntu. 12.04. Juju and the metal-as-a-service (MAAS) bare-metal provisioning tool will also be available to 12.04 users through the Ubuntu Cloud Archive’s new “cloud-tools” pocket.