OpenStack's top operating system: Ubuntu Linux

Lots of operating systems run on the OpenStack cloud, but Ubuntu Linux is most users' favorite.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

While digging into the last OpenStack User Survey, I found that Ubuntu Linux was the most popular OpenStack operating system.

Ubuntu in the clouds
Ubuntu is the top operating system in the OpenStack cloud.

No matter if users had dozens, or thousands, of CPU cores in their cloud, most preferrred Ubuntu. It was followed by the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) clone CentOS, which is now part of the Red Hat family, and then RHEL itself. At the end of the herd, was Windows, Debian, openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES).

According to Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, 55 percent of OpenStack operating systems are on Ubuntu, "a stark contrast with the 10 percent of OpenStack deployments on RHEL." 

This isn't too surprising. Ubuntu has made a point of working closely with OpenStack. Although most people think of Ubuntu as just a desktop operating system with designs on becoming a smartphone power, it has also long been a major cloud player.

Indeed, Ubuntu has its own Development/Operations (DevOps) cloud programming platform in Juju, which works at a higher level than Chef and Puppet, the two most popular DevOps programs.

Chef and Puppet are meant to automate server configuration, and are used to set up virtual cloud servers so that each instance is an identical software configuration and is running the correct services. Juju, on the other hand, is meant to manage services, not machines. This makes Juju very attractive to high-level cloud administrators.

Shuttleworth wrote in a blog that when it comes to OpenStack:

Our focus is on supporting the development of OpenStack, supporting the broadest range of vendors who want to offer OpenStack solutions, components and services, and enabling a large ecosystem to accelerate the adoption of OpenStack in their markets.

It’s a point of pride for us that you can get an OpenStack cloud built on Ubuntu from just about every participant in the OpenStack ecosystem – Dell, HP, Mirantis, and many more – we think the healthiest approach is for us to ensure that people have great choices when it comes to their cloud solution.

To make sure those choices work with Ubuntu, Canonical opened its own OpenStack Interoperability Lab in November 2013. There, Canonical partners work with numerous OpenStack supporters to make sure both Ubuntu and Juju work with everyone else's OpenStack compatible software and hardware.

Looking ahead to the next release of Ubuntu, Ubuntu 14.04, Trusty Tahr, Shuttleworth said,

We take the needs of OpenStack developers very seriously – for 14.04 LTS, our upcoming bi-annual enterprise release, a significant part of our product requirements were driven by the goal of supporting large-scale enterprise deployments of OpenStack with high availability as a baseline. Our partners like HP, who run one of the largest OpenStack public cloud offerings, invest heavily in OpenStack’s CI [continuous integration] and test capabilities, ensuring that OpenStack on Ubuntu is of high quality for anybody who chooses the same base platform.

Ultimately the goal is to make money from OpenStack. Shuttleworth stated, "For commercial support of OpenStack, we are happy for industry to engage either with our partners who can provide local talent combined with an escalation path to Canonical for Level 3 support of the whole solution, or directly with Canonical if the circumstances warrant it."

Of course Canonical isn't the only major Linux company with that as a goal. Red Hat also wants to be OpenStack commercial users' operating system of choice. SUSE is also building its cloud plans around OpenStack.

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