Canonical is set to release the latest version of its Ubuntu Linux platform which, as tradition dictates, comes with the newest version of the OpenStack cloud computing platform, plus release versions of two Canonical technologies: the Autopilot tool for managing OpenStack deployment and LXD for containers.
Available to download from 22 October, Ubuntu 15.10 (codenamed Wily Werewolf) is an interim release between the long-term support (LTS) versions of Ubuntu that are supported for five years by Canonical for customers with a support agreement. The most recent LTS release was 14.04, launched in April 2014.
The majority of the updates in this release appear to be focused on servers and the cloud, with an overhaul of the desktop user interface slated for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, which is expected to arrive in April next year.
However, it does offer a preview of Unity 8, Canonical's next-generation user interface. Users can log-in to a Unity 8 session on the desktop, experience the new features, and cleanly revert to the default Unity 7 experience, Canonical said.
Meanwhile, Canonical is declaring general availability of its Linux Container Daemon (LXD) technology in Ubuntu 15.10, intended to beef up containers with a similar level of security and isolation as virtual machine instances.
LXD debuted in Ubuntu 15.04, but is now considered production-ready and brings with it some capabilities normally associated with virtual machines, such as the ability to take snapshot images and live migrate containers between hosts, according to Canonical.
"It brings a lot of the semantics and values that people associate with VMs to container environments," Canonical Ubuntu product manager Mark Baker told V3.
This is achieved via features such as cgroups and wrapping each container in its own AppArmor security profile, he added.
This should allow users to get the best of both worlds: the performance and density of containers but with the security and isolation of virtual machines.
Ubuntu Linux has been integrated with OpenStack since 2013, and Canonical has since tied its release cycle to OpenStack's. Hence Ubuntu 15.04 comes with OpenStack Liberty, which was released earlier this month. It will also be back-ported to 16.04 LTS
However, Canonical has also added preview support for LXD into OpenStack with this release. It comes in the shape of a driver for the Nova compute module that allows containers to be provisioned the same way as virtual machines. Previously, containers had to be provisioned using the Heat orchestration module.
"We've created a driver called Nova compute LXD that allows you to use the existing APIs so that when you request a resource, rather than launching a new VM it will launch a new container in an existing Nova compute node," Baker said.
Also reaching general availability with this release is Canonical's OpenStack Autopilot, described as a full toolset to deploy, manage and scale an OpenStack environment. With this, Ubuntu users do not need to be a highly skilled OpenStack architect in order to set up and operate a private infrastructure-as-a-service cloud.
A key piece of OpenStack Autopilot is the notion of a reference architecture that it can use as a template for automatically provisioning new resources as the cloud grows, according to Baker.
"If you want to scale your cloud from, say, 10 nodes up to 50 nodes, people who are running OpenStack clouds know that, as you add more capacity to your Nova compute, you also need to look at the architecture of your cloud controller services," he explained.
With Autopilot, as more nodes are added it will automatically scale the environment, including re-architecting and adding controller service resources if necessary.
"If you start off very small, you won't have a cloud with full high availability, but as you then add capacity, Autopilot is intelligent enough to know that it has enough resources to start adding in redundancy," Baker said.
"It's actually able to do that using containers. All the cloud controller services, apart from Nova, are deployed as LXC containers, and that gives us the flexibility to move them if necessary, or add more units."
Autopilot has been built with feedback from Canonical's OpenStack Interoperability Lab (OIL), and incorporates validated configuration choices for hypervisor, networking and storage technologies.
"You can use Juniper Contrail or Open Daylight on the software-defined networking side, but Autopilot can only provide you with choices and combinations that we have tested and validated using OIL," he said.
Finally, one technology being included as a preview in Ubuntu 15.10 is the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK), which is intended to support Ubuntu and OpenStack in deployments with telecoms service providers.
DPDK provides a programming framework for network function virtualisation, and is intended to deliver more efficient processing for large volumes of data traffic by letting the virtual network function talk directly to the network interface rather than going via the standard networking stack.
"We are working with some specific customers in testing this, with a view to bedding it down in time for 16.04 LTS," Baker said.
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