​Ubuntu 15.04 container-friendly Linux for cloud and servers arrives soon

Canonical, which has become a quiet cloud power, is releasing its next container-friendly Linux on April 23rd.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Don't look now but Ubuntu has become the Linux for clouds. On the AmazonElastic Compute Cloud (EC2), for example, Ubuntu is the most popular operating system by an almost two to one margin. 64 percent of production OpenStack users have also chosen Ubuntu to stay on top. Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, is adding even more cloud and container functionality to the next version, Ubuntu 15.04.

Ubuntu 15.04, Vivid Vervet
With this release, Canonical is adding a new snappy Ubuntu Core. This light-weight Linux is designed for transactional systems, such as cloud container hosts, and smart devices for the Internet of Things. The new Ubuntu will also include updated developer tools and the latest frameworks, languages, databases and packages. On top of this, Canonical's adding its new container-based hypervisor, LXD.

LXD, pronounced Lex-Dee, is an expansion of LXC, an earlier Linux container technology. Technically, LXD according to Stéphane Graber, an Ubuntu project engineer, is a "daemon exporting an authenticated representational state transfer application programming interface (REST API) both locally over a Unix socket and over the network using https. There are then two clients for this daemon, one is an OpenStack plug-in, the other a standalone command line tool."

Canonical claims LXD provides the full experience of virtual machines, the security of a hypervisor, and bare-metal performance and density. In a statement, Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu's founder, said that "LXD eliminates the very high virtualization penalty of traditional hypervisors, making Linux-on-Linux workloads much faster and much more dense. Containers are the new frontier in virtualization and cloud. We are delighted to lead with LXD and the integration of containers into OpenStack."

"LXD support in OpenStack means big data specialists can now use OpenStack APIs for provisioning, and get bare metal performance for their analytics," added Mark Baker, product manager for OpenStack in Ubuntu in a statement. Indeed the company claims that workloads which are traditionally run on bare metal, such as Big Data's Hadoop, perform at native speeds under LXD without KVM's 15-20 percent overhead.

That's not to say that Canonical plans on setting up LXD as a rival to Docker, as CoreOS has with its Rocket container. Instead, Baker remarked that LXD gives DevOps a full "virtual machine" experience inside which administrators can run tools like Docker. "LXD and Docker work together. LXD provides a full system container, like a virtual machine, and Docker provides the process container for applications," explained Baker.

To sum up on the container front, Ubuntu 15.04 adds:

  • Expanded LXD functionality
  • Live migration of LXD containers between hosts
  • Automatic, rigorous security for containers through kernel AppArmor profiles
  • Docker 1.5

Ubuntu's news isn't all about containers. The new "Snappy" Ubuntu Core includes all the old, familiar code and updates of Ubuntu in a new small footprint. It's "snappy" package system enables guaranteed updates with rollback for both the operating system and its applications. "Ubuntu Core offers everything developers love about Ubuntu together with transactional updates," explained Dustin Kirkland, Canonical Ubuntu Server product manager. "Snap packages deliver apps securely to devices and cloud hosts, with isolation of application data and the guarantee that an update can be rolled back."

Last, but not least, Canonical claims that Ubuntu will be the world's first OpenStack distribution to make the newest "Kilo" release available to users. Kilo, which will be officially released at the end of the month, promises to be a big step forward in scalability for software defined networking (SDN) and cloud identity federation.

Want to check out the latest Ubuntu for yourself? The new Ubuntu will soon be available on both traditional server format and the new, snappy editions on Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine, Scaleway, BrightBox, and CloudSigma public clouds. You can, as always, download Ubuntu Server 15.04 starting 23 April 2015.

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