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Cloud-building Fedora 18 goes into beta

OpenStack and Eucalyptus included, OpenShift on the way

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The Fedora Project is kicking out the first and only beta of its Fedora 18 release of Linux, and this time around the focus is on cloud, cloud, cloud.

Fedora 18 is code-named "Spherical Cow" but it might as well have been called "Cow-Shaped Cloud Wearing A Red Hat", since arguably the most important aspects of the release are the inclusion of infrastructure cloud controller software and the promise of the integration of Red Hat's own platform cloud software.

Back in May, with the launch of Fedora 17, the "Essex" release of the OpenStack cloud control freak was bundled with the operating system so developers could puff up their own infrastructure clouds. The OpenNebula cloud control freak, an alternative to OpenStack (championed by Rackspace Hosting) and CloudStack (championed by Citrix Systems), was also integrated with Fedora 17.

With Fedora 18, the OpenStack rolled up with the Linux distro is being upgraded to the "Folsom" release, which is the most significant and complete OpenStack yet, and probably the first release that mere mortals, rather than ninjas, could use to build an infrastructure cloud.

There are those who like the Eucalyptus cloud control freak, too, and some of the contributors to the Fedora community either worked at Eucalyptus Systems or are enthusiastic about its use, and they did what any community members can do: work to integrate a tool they like with the Linux distro and see what people will do with it.

Fedora 18 includes the Eucalyptus 3.1 control freak, which came out in June. Eucalyptus 3.2 was just announced this week, will ship in December, and was not completed in time to be included in the Fedora distro.

Don't get the wrong idea about all this. Just because these cloud controllers are packaged up and integrated with the Fedora distribution does not mean that Red Hat, the sponsor and main beneficiary of the Fedora development project, will commercialize all of these different cloud control freaks. It would be nice to have Red Hat integrate and support all of the open source cloud control freaks, but it would be equally nice to get a sailboat, a little red wagon, and a pony for Christmas.

Red Hat could have packaged up its own Eucalyptus distro and sold support services against it – or even gone as far as to acquire Eucalyptus Systems – and ditto for OpenNebula and even CloudStack before it was eaten by Citrix. But Red Hat is going with OpenStack and expects to have a commercial-grade OpenStack distro available in early 2013, based on the Folsom release. A tech preview of Red Hat OpenStack based on Essex has been out since August, when Red Hat made its plans public.

Red Hat isn't just interested in infrastructure clouds. The company wants to be a player in platform clouds, which hide all of the complexity of the underlying physical and virtual infrastructure from users and expose application runtimes, data stores, and data bases as services.

Robyn Bergeron, Fedora project leader, tells El Reg that the hope was to get OpenShift Origins, the platform cloud announced in May 2011 and further enhanced this June, into Fedora 18. But OpenShift Origins is coded in Ruby on Rails 3.0 and Fedora 18 moved on up to Ruby on Rails 3.2, so OpenShift had to be bumped out to the Fedora 19 release six months from now.

As you can see from the release notes for the Fedora 18 beta, Spherical Cow has a bunch of other stuff. The beta includes the new Gnome 3.6 graphical user interface, but because this is a community, the Mate desktop environment (based on the venerable Gnome 2 interface) has been added for the first time. The KDE, XFCE, and Sugar desktop environments (the latter is the interface for One Laptop Per Child laptops) are also getting updates.

Bergeron says that Fedora 18 also has a bunch of tweaks to the installer that make it a little less bizarre for those making the jump from Windows, and that it is "just not as scary" as it used to be for Linux newbies.

The final release of the Samba 4 file server is in the beta, and the development tool stack has been updated to Perl 5.16, Python 3.2, and Rails 3.2. The D and Haskell programming environments have also been updated. There is a new storage management command line interface that abstracts lvm, btrfs, and md raid storage systems and allows them to be managed from one place.

The Fedora 18 beta is currently available for x86 machines, and not long after this beta is out the door, Bergeron says, the community will be working feverishly to get a beta out for ARM machines. The development processor for x86 and ARM is "not exactly synchronized" at the moment, she says, but by Fedora 19 or 20, ARM code will be fully integrated in the process and will be released simultaneously with x86 code.

Fedora 18 is expected to have a number of release candidates based on beta feedback, and then will be released as a finished product in early January. ®

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