Ubuntu Server's Ambitions No Longer Cloudy - Er, MurkyUbuntu Server's Ambitions No Longer Cloudy - Er, Murky
Yesterday I sat in on a conference call with Steve George, director of the Enterprise group at Canonical, to get more of an idea where they're headed with Ubuntu Server 9.04 and beyond. It's helped make clear what Canonical's ambitions are for Ubuntu as a server -- something that has been slightly dim even for Ubuntu / Canonical supporters.</p>
April 2, 2009
Yesterday I sat in on a conference call with Steve George, director of the Enterprise group at Canonical, to get more of an idea where they're headed with Ubuntu Server 9.04 and beyond. It's helped make clear what Canonical's ambitions are for Ubuntu as a server -- something that has been slightly dim even for Ubuntu / Canonical supporters.
A big feature for 9.04 is cloud compatibility, in the form of a) being able to run instances of 9.04 directly on Amazon EC2 clouds and b) being able to provision cloud-computing infrastructures with local servers (Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud). There's a whole raft of other goodies, too, most of them built around making servers that much easier to provision and manage, but the cloud features made me sit up and pay attention.
What draws most people to Ubuntu, either as a desktop or a server, is how it's been designed to be as close to the "It Just Works" experience as possible. This is not the same as dumbing-down; I don't know of a single harried administrator who wouldn't want to be able to, say, provision twenty servers without having to manually pull the levers on each one. Anything that makes the job easier, especially if it includes the jobs that we're going to be doing that much more of in the future -- e.g., creating local or domestic clouds.
If Canonical can make this into the draw for Ubuntu Server, they'll be able to carve out that much more of a niche for it. When Ubuntu Server first showed up, a great many people shrugged: what was the point, exactly? How would this stand apart from Red Hat (or CentOS), or SuSE, or you-name-it? Ease of deployment is one thing, but it's becoming clearer that Ubuntu is shooting for something above and beyond that: ease of deployment not only for current technologies (email, file/print services, directories), but also for all the emergent tech (e.g., clouds) that people want to start working with immediately.
Can they pull it off? Someone had better be able to. For one, I don't like the idea of cloud computing being entirely the province of a whole aggregate of different proprietary and quasi-proprietary providers (Amazon, mainly). Anyone who can make this stuff a grab-and-go experience with as little lock-in as possible will have a very nice feather in their cap.
There's still a lot of work to be done -- for one, live migration from inner to outer cloud isn't possible yet, and Amazon is the only cloud infrastructure that Ubuntu Server supports so far. But this is a very promising start.
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