Canonical has released the latest version of its popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, adding the new Mitaka version of the OpenStack cloud framework, an updated version of its LXD secure container technology, and the ZFS high-end file system.
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is available to download now, and is noteworthy because it is the latest long-term support (LTS) release of the platform, for which Canonical offers five years of updates and technical support to enterprise customers with a support agreement.
The previous LTS release was version 14.04, which was launched two years ago with OpenStack Icehouse. Canonical tied its release cycle for Ubuntu to that of OpenStack in 2013 so that the latest version of the operating system always comes with the newest version of the cloud platform.
"We are the only distribution to stay in step with OpenStack, and the reason is because OpenStack is maturing fast, and every release brings meaningful functionality," said Anand Krishnan, executive vice president and general manager of cloud at Canonical.
Krishnan cited two features in OpenStack Mitaka to illustrate this - live migration and Cells v2 - both of which have been given significant enhancements in this release.
Live migration enables the system to move a virtual machine from one physical host to another without disrupting the workload, while Cells is a feature of the Nova compute module that enables a deployment to scale out much more easily than has previously been the case.
However, Canonical has also added capabilities of its own to Ubuntu 16.04 LTS intended to support the operation of workloads using containers in an OpenStack cloud based on Ubuntu.
The first of these is the ZFS file system, which was actually developed by Sun Microsystems for the Solaris Unix platform. This offers capabilities including a high level of data integrity, data compression and snapshots, and is touted by Canonical as ideal for operating containers.
"ZFS has a whole host of features that people have often said would be great to have on Linux, and OpenZFS has been available as a project, but no-one has actually pulled it into a Linux distribution until now. It will make the lives of sysadmins, especially anyone handling storage of any complexity, much better," Krishnan said.
Canonical's Linux Container Daemon (LXD) container technology has also hit version 2.0 in this release, with tweaks for greater stability and a Nova plug-in for better integration into OpenStack.
LXD is described as a container hypervisor technology as it enables the operating system to treat containers in pretty much the same way as virtual machines, providing better security and isolation between containers.
"LXD is bare-metal performance but with a VM-like construct around it. It looks like a VM, and it acts like a VM, but it is really a container. If you run a job in LXD, you immediately lose that 15 to 30 per cent overhead that a VM would impose," Krishnan explained.
This is in contrast to Docker, which is basically a way of packaging and distributing applications inside containers. However, Docker can be run inside an LXD container, Canonical said.
Meanwhile, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS introduces its own application format, called the snap package, based around Canonical's 'snappy' transactional update mechanism. This is an alternative to the traditional packaging and update mechanism that Ubuntu inherits from Debian, and the two are intended to co-exist.
Snap enables developers to build applications that are isolated and do not affect each other or the operating system, and can be deployed and updated much more easily, according to Canonical.
Canonical also said that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS has now been ported to run on IBM's z Systems, enabling scale-out Linux workloads to be brought to mainframe systems such as the LinuxOne family for customers such as banks and insurance companies.
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