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OpenStack infiltrates Ubuntu's cloud diet

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Exclusive A new cloud is descending on Ubuntu - OpenStack, an alternative to its current preferred favorite, Eucalyptus.

APIs for the OpenStack cloud architecture – lead by Rackspace – are being built into the Linux distro's server side, The Reg has learned.

Developers have already added the Nova cloud-compute framework, written using PHP, and Swift, for scalable distributed object store. Swift features object, container, account, auth, and proxy services based on code from hoster Rackspace.

Together, these provide alternatives to Amazon's EC2 and S3 and their open-source sibling Eucalyptus, which is maintained commercially by start-up Eucalyptus Systems.

The OpenStack components have been added to the Ubuntu repositories as a contribution from the Linux's community members who happen to also be working on OpenStack.

The components are in tech preview mode, so they are not recommended for deployment in the line of fire and are intended only for "investigatory use".

Ubuntu 10.10 is as good as locked and loaded for its official release next Sunday, which suggests the OpenStack components are being readied for Ubuntu 11.04 - Natty Narwhal - or even the follow-up in a year's time, version 11.10 currently lacking a code name.

The absorption of OpenStack is a major development for a distro that's placed all its bets for cloud development on Eucalyptus. The thinking is that if a private data center is going to run a cloud on Linux, then it will do so on Ubuntu Linux and use an Amazon-like architecture.

OpenStack was launched just three months ago by RackSpace and NASA, with backing from 25 others, including AMD, Dell, and Intel. The goal is to provide a completely open, compute, and storage cloud architecture. It's available under the Apache 2.0 license.

Ubuntu's flight towards the cloud started with the addition of Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) in Ubuntu 9.04 last year. The relationship was furthered by Eucalyptus' support for the KVM hypervisor, used by Ubuntu.

While Eucalyptus may have ridden high on the hype surrounding Amazon, it seems the tide is beginning to flow in the opposite direction.

Eucalyptus mimics Amazon's AWS for private data centers, with its own cloud controller, storage, cluster and storage controller, and a node controller.

Eucalyptus is available under GPL 3, but "enterprise" features are only being added to a version that is maintained by commercial entity Eucalyptus Systems and that it makes available to paying customers under a closed license. Until now, that has meant features like support for VMware's vSphere, ESX and ESXi.

The prioritization has meant some features wanted by those outside the enterprise market drop off the list.

One company's control over what goes into Eucalyptus combined with a lack of suitable features helped breed OpenStack in July - with the full support of NASA. The government agency was building its own cloud, called Nebula, using Eucalyptus, and it had wanted features included for massive scale, but these weren't being added, according to NASA.

NASA wants Nebula to be something that goes far beyond the run-of-the-mill enterprise staples envisioned by Eucalyptus. The goal for a cloud that spans one million physical machines and 60 million servers.

Ubuntu's move towards OpenStack won't come lightly as Eucalyptus admits here the work on integration wasn't an easy task.

"Because Eucalyptus uses a combination of technologies, this packaging effort was quite manpower intensive, requiring a considerable commitment from the Ubuntu maintainers and developers who work for Canonical," Eucalyptus said. ®

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