Canonical's cloud-in-a-box: The Ubuntu Orange Box

Canonical's cloud-in-a-box: The Ubuntu Orange Box

Summary: Canonical had an unexpected hit at OpenStack Summit: It's an Intel-powered, cloud-in-a-box.


When Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu Linux, made his keynote speech at OpenStack Summit in Atlanta, he announced many new Ubuntu OpenStack cloud and Juju DevOps initiatives.

Here's what he didn't expect: The announcement that really grabbed the OpenStack crowd's attention was Canonical's cloud-in-a-box — Ubuntu Orange Box.

Ubuntu Orange Box
The unexpected hit of OpenStack Summit: Canonical's Ubuntu Orange Box.

The Orange Box, an OpenStack cloud in a box, is designed to be luggable; the system is a bit smaller than a roll-along suitcase. At 37.4 pounds for the unit itself (PDF Link) and 70 pounds with the accessories in its flight case, it's a bit too heavy to put above your seat. But, noted Canonical product marketing manager Mark Baker, "It's just light enough to be shipped as checked luggage."

Inside the Orange Box, you'll find ten Intel micro-servers powered by Ivy Bridge i5-3427U CPUs. Each mini-server has four cores, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 16GBs of DDR3 RAM, a 128GB SSD root disk, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The first computer also includes a Centrino Advanced-N 6235 Wi-Fi Adapter, and 2TB Western Digital hard drive. These are all connected in a cluster with a D-Link Gigabit switch. Put it all together and you get a 40-core, 160GB RAM, 1.2TB SSD cluster in a box.

The Orange Box, which was designed by Canonical and the UK computer OEM Tranquil PC, sells for £7,575.00, or approximately $12,750.

In his keynote, Shuttleworth said that "you can do anything with these Orange Boxes." Each is loaded with Ubuntu 14.04, and OpenStack Icehouse. Every unit also includes Juju and Metal-as-a-Service (MaaS) cloud management and deployment tools. "These are a great way to learn how to use distributed systems," added Shuttleworth.

Specifically, Canonical is using them for JumpStart training. JumpStart is Canonical's OpenStack training program, which comes with an Orange Box that trainees can keep for two weeks while they learn to run OpenStack with Juju and MaaS. It also includes two full days of technical training.

So, from where Canonical sits, the Orange Box was really meant to give OpenStack cloud users a taste of Ubuntu's approach to OpenStack. They weren't meant to be a sales item in and of themselves. Baker explained, "This is a means to an end." That's what Canonical thought, anyway.

As Chris Kenyon, Canonical's senior VP for worldwide sales and business development, told me the next day: "We've had people come up to the booth wanting to order a hundred of them." Large companies look at the Orange Box and see a way to quickly and easily deploy an OpenStack cloud in remote offices and branches. Small companies see it as a one-stop way to add a private cloud to their office without any fuss or muss.

In a conversation after the keynote, Shuttleworth agreed that they hadn't expected this kind of reaction.

Now, Canonical — which has no desire to get into the hardware business at this time — is faced with enormous demand for their cloud-in-a-box. What's a company to do?

Baker conceded that the Orange Box is generating a lot of interest from corporate customers. At least one individual told me that — $12,750 price tag aside — he was impressed enough to be thinking that Canonical should "Shut up and take my money." His thought was to use it as a Steam gaming server. In fact,  Dustin Kirkland, Canonical's Cloud Solutions Product Manager, had blogged: "It also makes one hell of a Steam server -- there's a [Juju] charm for that."

Baker told me that while Canonical has no firm plans yet on how to meet the demand, the company is talking to potential customers in the EU, US, and Asian markets about their requirements. Personally, I have no doubt that via Tranquil PC, other OEMs, resellers or system integrators, Orange Boxes are going to become a popular business hardware sideline for Canonical.

I've already asked for a review unit.

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Topics: Cloud, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Servers, Ubuntu

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  • I am waiting for SJVN's review

  • cool stuff but nonsense in the cloud context

    while it is definitely a cool and well-marketed me looks like something that goes in the opposite direction of the whole concept of cloud computing, where your hardware it is heterogeneous, it can be mixed, it is managed like cattle and software takes care of everything: so what's the point of specialized hardware/appliances for a private cloud?

    my 0,02

    • security.

      The private cloud provides ownership control over the data, and you don't have to trust some third party to properly handle things.

      The advantage is that you also get to use the public cloud utility applications.
    • You're going to see more of this...

      The Internet began as a very distributed network, but now it's contracted some to large players into a bit of a server-centric network, but many see benefit in a hybrid model that adds an on premises server that acts as a sort of backup/development environment, which then interacts with the cloud hosting... so in a way things are expanding again to enable more distribution of Internet resoruces... with these little boxes as a quick and easy way to do it!

      I for one look at the value of this little box, and think that it might not be that big of a jump... I mean really, you can get a regular server with 4 cores, RAID, etc., for around $3500 - $5000. But for about 3x increase in price you get 10x increase in computing capacity... VERY ATTRACTIVE INDEED since this one server could run a fairly large office!
      Technical John
  • Link to Tranquil bad

    Correct one is
  • $700 usd for one 1 tb hard drive

    A bit steep I think to add a 1 TB drive to the mix.
    • RE: $700 usd for one 1 tb hard drive

      The price I see is:
      1TB 2.5" Spinning HDD (+£82.00)
      I know the USD isn't what it used to be, but 82.00 pounds is nowhere near $700USD.
    • seriously

      2tb enterprise class drives are less then half of the full retail from Dell.
      I just added another one to my array.
      Home Grown IT
  • more vaporware?

    Looks pretty neat, but cannonical continually comes up with these Big Ideas or proof of concepts, but then never follows through with them.

    Ubuntu For Android
    Ubuntu TV
    Ubuntu Touch
    Ubuntu One

    It seems like the company is grabbing at straws and has no direction.
    • This isn't vaporware, clearly stated not for mass-production

      You might have wanted to actually read the aritcle:
      "So, from where Canonical sits, the Orange Box was really meant to give OpenStack cloud users a taste of Ubuntu's approach to OpenStack. They weren't meant to be a sales item in and of themselves."

      These things actually do exist and are in active use. But they aren't "for sale" commercially... yet! :D
      Technical John
  • Clannish and Geeky

    An open letter to the Linux community:

    I don’t care what flavor of Linux you run (Mint, Cinnamon, Lubuntu or Ubuntu), if you want to break the Microsoft hegemony with the death of XP, please consider making networking easier and not being so geeky and clannish.

    Thank you.
    George Schwarz
    • so instead

      You want it impossible to secure?
  • Much cheaper option already available

    We have a similar appliance retailing at EUR 1495. Much cheaper, it has an app store built in, can bridge to distant public/private clouds to offer a true hybrid solution and its scalable as you can stack the boxes.
  • 1U Appliance Version Available

    If you like the concept and want something deployable, the QuickFire Networks T-Video 1200 has eleven Core i7-4700 or i7-4860 processors in a 1U appliance with up to 14TB of SSD storage.!platforms/c1o0t

    (QuickFire founder)
  • Ivy Bridge i5-3427U CPU is only a 2-core unit . . .

    . . . according to

    So, unless each 'mini-server' is hosting 2 cpus, it is only a 20-core box.

    Still kind of intriguing, though.