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Ubuntu Server 9.1 Adds Cloud APIs

Canonical's Linux operating system includes built-in means of accessing Amazon's EC2 with a compatible set of APIs from the Eucalyptus open source project.

Canonical Tuesday started distributing Ubuntu Server 9.1 with Eucalyptus cloud APIs integrated into the package. The APIs can be activated easily from inside Ubuntu with this distribution, according to Rich Wolski, CTO of Eucalyptus Systems.

Ubuntu Server 9.1 is the Karmic Koala distribution -- Koala bears eat Eucalyptus leaves to survive, in case you missed the natural history behind the name. Ubuntu 9.1 is the first operating system to include built-in means of accessing Amazon's EC2 with a compatible set of APIs from the Eucalyptus open source project.

EC2 basic functions have been duplicated by, started by Wolski as a computer science professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is on a leave of absence from the university.

"In this release of Ubuntu, Eucalyptus is easier to activate in Main (the core open source packages configured for ease of use with the operating system)," said Wolski in an interview. "Ubuntu will really accelerate the uptake of cloud technologies in general," he said.

While Eucalyptus was previously bundled with Ubuntu 9.0, "this 9.1 distribution makes Eucalyptus more amenable to the production environment," he added.

It remains to be seen whether developers will pick up on the offering and start building cloud applications. Some observers say open source code will play an increasingly important role in cloud computing because it can be replicated repeatedly in the cloud without incurring license charges. Amazon's three-year-old EC2 implementation ran on the Xen open source hypervisor and Linux virtual machines.

Ubuntu Server 9.1 is the first open source code combination that opens a direct pathway to the cloud. Applications developed using Ubuntu Server 9.1 and Eucalyptus could be run in a private cloud, or virtualized servers managed as a set inside the data center. Private clouds allow business end users to self-provision the virtual machines they need, then charge them for them.

Canonical calls its Eucalyptus and Linux Server 9.1 combination the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud, suggesting that it thinks it is suitable for constructing private clouds.

It would also be possible for developers using Ubuntu 9.1 to upload their apps to the public cloud, such as Amazon's EC2 or any cloud built to recognize the Amazon-style APIs. The Eucalyptus project duplicated the function of loading an Amazon Machine Image virtual appliance into EC2, running it and using S3 storage, another Amazon Web service.

Applications built with Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud could also be used in a hybrid fashion, with a steady state workload executed in the data center's private cloud, but spikes sent to the public cloud.

The Eucalyptus design "gives users the flexibility to seamlessly move applications from on-premise Eucalyptus clouds to public clouds, and vice versa," the announcement of Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud said.

The Eucalyptus code works with any distribution of Linux.

InformationWeek and Dr. Dobb's have published an in-depth report on how Web application development is moving to online platforms. Download the report here (registration required).

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