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Ubuntu eats OpenStack for clouds

Eucalyptus leaves

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Ubuntu Linux and cloud fabric enthusiasts, say goodbye to Eucalyptus and say hello to OpenStack.

The Ubuntu Developer Summit is underway in Budapest, Hungary, this week, and the top brass of Canonical – a number of whom are departing the company – and the top techies in the Ubuntu community have finally come to a decision about what the future cloud fabric will be for the Ubuntu stack: OpenStack, the fabric launched last summer by NASA and Rackspace Hosting.

No matter how Eucalyptus Systems, the commercial entity behind the cloud fabric of the same name, will spin this decision, it's not good news for Canonical's current cloud partner.

The Eucalyptus framework implements the API stack of Amazon's EC2 compute cloud and allows a cluster of servers to emulate what Amazon does internally, but on a private cloud. The Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) distribution, which is packaged as a complete stack, packages up Amazon Machine Images on a private cloud to run atop a KVM hypervisor; Amazon uses a modified Xen hypervisor for its EC2 service. Eucalyptus originally supported Xen only, and the Ubuntu team worked with Eucalyptus Systems to make it KVM friendly.

Back in March, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth said that "firm decisions" needed to be made about what cloud fabrics would be embedded into the Ubuntu stack. He anticipated a "feisty debate" about Eucalyptus, which is not fully open source, and OpenStack, which is completely open but not yet fully cooked for the next April's 12.04 Long Term Support (LTS) release of Ubuntu Server.

Whether or not the debate was feisty, Canonical did not say. But in a statement released from the UDS event in Budapest, the company said that future releases of Ubuntu Server, including the 11.10 release due in October this year, would support OpenStack.

"The OpenStack project has developed significant user, developer, and industry attention over the last year as it has matured," the company's statement said. "The Ubuntu team has been working closely with the OpenStack project and this will form a strong basis for Ubuntu Cloud product in the future. This decision clarifies the direction of Ubuntu Cloud over the next 12 months, as the project moves towards the long-term support (LTS) release in April 2012."

Ubuntu said that Eucalyptus will continue to be available for download and will be supported by Canonical. The Ubuntu Server 10.04 LTS version has support through April 2015, so there is no reason for companies that have deployed UEC to start heading for the exits in a panic. "Eucalyptus will remain within Ubuntu and will be available for users who prefer this technology," Canonical said.

That said, the company also noted that it would provide tools to companies with Eucalyptus-based clouds running atop UEC to port them over to the future releases using OpenStack as their fabric. And clearly, development effort and focus will shift to OpenStack. The porting tools will come out with Ubuntu Server 11.10 in October.

Eucalyptus got its start only four years as an open source project out of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and was the front runner for open source clouds. But when Eucalyptus Systems started offering commercial support for the cloud fabric, not all of the features in the stack were made available as open source – so-called open-core licensing.

NASA, for one, was annoyed by this, and by the difficulty in getting patches to Eucalyptus that it wanted added to improve its scalability to larger clouds. Marten Mickos, who used to be CEO of open source database maker MySQL and who now heads Eucalyptus Systems, tells a different tale about what happened with NASA, which was the largest user of Eucalyptus.

Only last week, in a blog posting, Mickos bragged that over 25,000 clouds have been installed using Eucalyptus. OpenStack, which is only nine months old and is arguably not ready for prime time, has 60 IT vendors behind it and has over 20,000 downloads to date.

The momentum has shifted to OpenStack, as many had predicted it would, just like the momentum at the hypervisor layer has shifted to KVM and away from Xen, the first open source hypervisor.

Sometimes being first means you win, and other times being first is its only reward over the long haul. ®

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