​Ubuntu 16.10: The Linux for the cloud and containers arrives

Ubuntu is still a popular desktop Linux, but it's clear that what Canonical really wants is to consolidate Ubuntu's position as the Linux for the cloud.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Once upon a time Canonical's Ubuntu Linux was known as the desktop Linux. It's desktop is still very popular and the company is still investing in improving it. But, you don't need to look hard at the latest release, Ubuntu 16.10, to see Canonical believes its future is as the enterprise Linux for containers and the cloud.

Ubuntu 16.10

The latest Ubuntu 16.10 is much more about the cloud and containers than it is the desktop.

Ubuntu was already the most popular Linux in clouds. Now, with its Canonical distribution of Kubernetes, Canonical wants Ubuntu to be the most popular Linux for containers.

This provides an easy to use DevOps way to manage containers like Docker, Red Hat's Open Container Initiative Daemon, (OCID); and CoreOS's Rkt. Kubernetes, which started life at Google, is supported on all major public clouds, bare metal, and the open-source OpenStack cloud.

Ubuntu, while it also supports Microsoft Azure, is focusing a lot of its improvements on Canonical OpenStack. There, it deploys its LXD pure-container hypervisor. This is designed to provide high-level management and performance for containers at scale. These "machine" containers are meant to look, feel, and operate like virtual machines (VM). This enables companies to lift-and-shift VMs to containers with no modifications to the application or operations.

"The world's fastest hypervisor, LXD, and the world's best cloud operating system, Ubuntu, together with the latest OpenStack and Kubernetes make for the world's fastest and best private cloud infrastructure" boasted Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical and Ubuntu's founder, in a statement.

Shuttleworth continued, "Our focus is to enable true hybrid cloud operations, and this release further enhances the tools and platform that most companies depend on to operate effectively across all major public clouds and in one's own data center, from bare metal to cloud container."

In other steps forward on the cloud, Ubuntu 16.10 includes Metal as a Service (MAAS) 2.0.

MAAS, Canonical claims, enables a physical data center to "feel like a cloud". How? By providing on-demand availability of VMs with custom images through a web or Representational State Transfer (REST) application programming interface (API). With it, you can run not just Ubuntu, but many other operating systems such as CentOS and Windows with standard configurations.

Ubuntu 16.10 also includes the latest release of the Juju 2.0 DevOps tool. With this you can easily set up "big software" applications, such as Hadoop and Kubernetes. Better still, with Juju you can do this in a consistent, model-driven fashion across multiple public clouds and private infrastructure.

I've used Juju myself and it really does make deploying complex applications on a cloud simple. Juju 2.0 also adds support for vSphere infrastructure, enabling private clouds on both OpenStack and VMware.

Canonical also states that network performance is a primary focus of this release, with updated versions of Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK), OpenVSwitch (OVS), and virtualization technologies. These are all designed to speed up critical server and cloud application traffic with lower latency and greater throughput.

Ubuntu 16.10 isn't all about enterprise Linux. It also includes universal "snap" Linux packages that merge container and packaging technology. This give developers a single format to distribute their apps and services. Snaps work on Ubuntu 16.10, 16.04 LTS, and 14.04 LTS, and some other Linux distributions.

This release also previews Canonical's device convergence vision. The Unity 8 developer preview includes apps that scale from phone to desktop, from mouse to touch screen, setting a precedent for the next wave of Linux devices.

Unity 8 has been the face of the Ubuntu phone and tablet for a years now. In this developer preview you can see how it continues Canonical's vision of one interface for all end-user devices.

Put it all together, and it's clear Canonical is putting the cloud first and the server second. The desktop is still important, but profitability will be found on the cloud, not in the PC.

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