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First impressions: Canonical Orange Box and Juju (Gallery)

The Orange Box really is a cloud-in-a-box. But while the hardware is neat, it's the Juju DevOps software inside that makes it special.

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Topic: Cloud
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The Ubuntu-powered Canonical Orange Box

Inside the Orange Box, you'll find ten Intel micro-servers.  Each is powered by Ivy Bridge i5-3427U CPUs. Every one of these mini-servers has four cores, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 16GBs of DDR3 RAM, a 128GB SSD root disk, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The first micro-server 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 37.4 pound box. With its flight case, it weighs in at 70 pounds. In short, while you can't lug it onto a plane, it's just light enough to journey with you as checked luggage.  

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Inside the Orange Box

The ten Intel micro-servers, aka Next Unit of Computing (NUC)s, are placed on the long sides of the box. The entire chasis acts as one emormous heat-sink. To the right you can see the D-Link Gigabit switch, whch the NUCs used to communicate with each other. Everything within the Orange box is made up of commerical off the shelf (COTS) gear. 

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The Orange Box's back

On the device's read you'll find HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, USB3 ports, an 802.11n antenna, and the 110 volt-power connector. Yes, you could sit this down in your living room and run it with your existing home network and power. 

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Setting up the Orange Box

Setting up an Orange Box is pretty trivial. The first server will boot up with Ubuntu 14.04 and you can then easily use MaaS and Juju to set up the other nine servers and get them to work with each other. The top lights show which servers are on, while the bottom lights show drive activity. To prevent network congestion when setting and booting up multiple servers, the Orange Box does it in sets of three. So, for example, the first node will upload the operating system and software to the next three nodes, set them to booting, and then move on to setting up the next trio of servers.  

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Servers up and running

Even with this delay on the network, it took less then three minutes with MaaS and the nodes' solid-state drives to get all ten systems up and running. 

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Juju setting up OpenStack

Before you see Juju's interface showing us a complete 10-node OpenStack cloud up and running. It took--and no I'm not kidding--ten minutes to go from a cold start to having the cloud ready for action. I've seen the same job take over a week with experienced adminsitrators. Need I say more about how fast and useful Juju can be?

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Taking a closer look with Juju at OpenStack

With Juju you can dive into services and servers to see what's what with them and tune them to your satisfaction. Notice all those lines between the services? Those represent the relationships between them. You can, for example, "drop in" a service and then draw lines to the other services with which it can work. That would be foolish if you don't know what you're doing, but if you do, it can make it very easy to, for example, add a Squid Web caching server in front of multiple Apache or Ngnix Web servers to address an unexpected increase in Web traffic. 

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Hadoop

The triple whamy of Ubuntu, MaaS, and Juju also makes it easy to set up enterprise class applications such as the Big Data Hadoop prorgam. 

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Benchmarking Hadoop

Another nice MaaS/Juju feature is how easy it makes it to scale services up. Here, for example, through the Hadoop interface, we see a TeraSort benchmark running with two Hadoop nodes. It's fast, but it's not that fast. 

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Adding on servers in real-time

So, let's use Juju to add on some more services, and presto, we have more servers! 

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Faster still

And, now, what do you know, Hadoop's speed has more than doubled. Thanks to MaaS and Juju, you can now scale up and down as needed from you keyboard and mouse with almost no fuss or muss. 

So, while yes, the Orange Box really is quite neat, the real goodness is to be found in the software it enables Ubuntu to show off. 

Find it hard to believe? Check it out for yourself. Canonical will be more than happy to show off their gear and software to you and then you decide for yourself if it's the cloud solution for you. I strongly suspect you'll find that it is. 

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