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Shuttleworth sees fewer clouds in Ubuntu's future

'Firm decisions' needed

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There are some tough decisions ahead about which cloud open sourcers should support in the next major version of Ubuntu.

Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has said that "firm decisions" are required about the cloud platforms that can be supported.

Shuttleworth made the announcement while revealing the animal-inspired code name for Ubuntu 11.10, due later this year. Ubuntu 11.10, the successor to 11.04 due next month, will be named Oneiric Ocelot – our dictionary, by the way, defines oneiric as "of or relating to dreams or dreaming".

Apparently looking beyond 11.10 to the next Long Term Support (LTS) release edition of Ubuntu, though, Shuttleworth talked of the need to be more selective on the distro's cloud platform picks. "In the cloud, we'll have to tighten up and make some firm decisions about the platforms we can support for 12.04 LTS," he said here.

Shuttleworth pretty much leaves it there, raising more questions than offering answers.

Instead, he expects there will be a "feisty debate" on the subject at the forthcoming Ubuntu Developer Summit, scheduled for May 9-13 in Budapest.

"UDS in Budapest will be full of feisty debate on that front, I'm sure, but I'm equally sure we can reach a pragmatic consensus and start to focus our energies on delivering the platform for widespread cloud computing on free and flexible terms," Shuttleworth said.

Ubuntu's Natty Narwhal, scheduled for next month, will pack APIs for two cloud architectures: OpenStack and Eucalyptus.

Shuttleworth confirmed the dual-cloud stance after The Reg reported that OpenStack APIs were being added to the forming Linux distro via the Ubuntu repositories by members of the Ubuntu community also working on OpenStack.

Ubuntu, however, had made a strong early show of support for Eucalyptus, with Shuttleworth understood to have personally invested in Eucalyptus Systems - the open-source company trying to sell services around Eucalyptus and commercially maintain the system. Shuttleworth invested before chief executive Marten Mickos took the helm in March 2010.

Since those early days, Eucalyptus has been put on the back foot by a swell of industry backing for OpenStack, with Canonical joining the OpenStack community in February.

Shuttleworth said in January that Ubuntu 11.04 would feature both clouds. "We will have both OpenStack- and Eucalyptus-based cloud options in Ubuntu 11.04 in April," he said.

On the flip side, there's uneasiness in the OpenStack community. Despite the project's open credentials, a single company has grown to dominate OpenStack's management structure: project cofounder RackSpace.

In an apparent attempt to assuage these concerns, Rackspace last week said that it was expanding OpenStack's newly renamed project policy board - previously the project oversight committee - which will now have 12 seats with eight elected and four nominated.

Its unlikely that Canonical would completely drop one cloud for the other. Rather, one might be deprecated and simply live on in the Ubuntu universe – or multiverse – getting updates from members of the community rather than from Canonical's own engineering team.

Shuttleworth, meanwhile, used the unveiling of the Oneiric Ocelot name to rally developers to keep pushing the Linux distro. Natty Narwhal will see major changes in look-and-feel as it moves to a new Unity interface as the official standard, and demotes Gnome.

He also called out support for Qt, the cross-platform and cross-device development framework until very recently owned by Nokia but now a casualty of Nokia's Windows Phone partnership with Microsoft.

"We'll need to keep up the pace of innovation on all fronts post-Natty. Our desktop has come together beautifully, and in the next release we'll complete the cycle of making it available to all users," Shuttleworth said.

In a nod to the hard work in making the move to Unity, he said: "Natty is a stretch release: we set out to redefine the look and feel of the free desktop. We'll need all the feedback we can get, so please test today's daily, or A3, and file bug reports! Keep up the discipline and focus on the Narwhal, and let's direct our daydreaming to the Ocelot." ®

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