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Ubuntu 12.04 LTS strikes Hyper-V first with Microsoft

Cloud before politics, says Canonical

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There’s a little love and yet a lot of rivalry between the latest Ubuntu build and Microsoft's Windows.

For servers Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, released on Thursday, has been engineered to run on Redmond’s Hyper-V, the Windows 2008 Server virtualization engine. On the desktop Canonical thinks its changes around thin-client computing will make this the Linux that Windows shops will want.

Canonical server product manager Mark Baker told The Reg that Canonical worked with Microsoft’s developers, who are pushing their code upstream, and has “been in dialogue with them to make sure we are pulling down the right pieces”.

Microsoft released Linux device driver code from Hyper-V under the GNU Public Licence in 2009 to improve performance and management of Linux as a guest operating system running in a virtualised Windows environment. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS seems to have benefited from that.

Also added to the virtualisation mix in version 12.04 LTS for the first time is support for Xen. KVM and VMware were already present.

“We take a pragmatic view of it,” Baker said of the Microsoft addition. “If customers want to run Ubuntu on a Microsoft-based hypervisor we see no reason why we shouldn’t provide a way to do that and ensure they have a good experience.

“As a technology, we partner with VMware to make sure we work well in their environment. We don’t want to get too involved in the politics or religion of it.”

All nice and friendly – except when it comes to the desktop: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS tries more than ever to woo Windows converts in business with the Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix.

The desktop features a package installer for thin-client software from Citrix and VMware, with support for the Windows Remote Desktop Protocol. The idea is to make it easier for users to set up the ability to serve thin-client versions of their apps, potentially extending the life of existing machines rather than embark on a hardware refresh with the latest Windows upgrade.

Canonical has also extended the lifetime of this LTS (long-term support) build from three to five years. This LTS also introduces the Unity touch interface that surfaced last year. Canonical reckons businesses who’ve already switched to Unity in Ubuntu 11.10 find the desktop environment more intuitive and easier to develop for – using less lines of code – than Gnome. It features the completely new HUD, which Canonical calls the "menu of the future".

The software firm is playing down its prospects of experiencing a positive bump from punters fleeing Windows 8, but reckons there’s plenty of business in snatching away possible Windows XP users going to Windows 7. It claims “a number of clients” in the last year have made such a move, including customers running “tens of thousands” of machines.

“Instead of going down the Windows path people are interested in moving to the Ubuntu path,” Canonical director of engineering and products Zaid Lal Hamami said. “If you can stream applications running on different platforms but dispersed on your machines there’s an entire wave of applications that can be running anywhere in cloud and can be integrated."

On the server, Canonical has taken steps with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS to make this the Linux of hyper-scale computing – that is data centres running elastic, clustered compute jobs. It’s looking beyond the world of hosted application service provides that have become popular places for Red Hat and associated distros such as CentOS and Fedora.

Included in the latest version of Ubuntu is the Essex edition of OpenStack and a pledge to backport the next four OpenStack releases to this LTS. Also, there’s Metal-as-a-Service (MaaS) to provision and manage physical servers running Ubuntu.

Canonical's JuJu dev-ops software for setting up clouds feature in this LTS along with the recently announced AWSOME, a proxy service that sits between OpenStack and Amazon’s Web Services and translates the calls so different apps can speak to each other without needing a rewrite.

Baker said Canonical is talking to service providers about using Ubuntu to build public clouds. One early result has been Hewlett-Packard’s decision to make Ubuntu a guest operating system on its soon-to-float cloud that’s built on OpenStack. That cloud, according to a tweet from the OpenStack Engineering Conference in San Francisco, California, is going up against Amazon: there will be more than 1,000 customers, 2,000 nodes and “multi-petabytes” of Swift capacity – Swift is the storage element of the OpenSack architecture. Pricing, we’re promised, “will match” Amazon Web Services.

“It’s our goal to be the best cloud host with OpenStack and the best cloud guest whether it’s running on Amazon or Rackspace," Baker said. "We are working to be best on both because when people are running application services on a platform we want that platform to be Ubuntu." ®

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