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Google's cloud dumps custom Linux, switches to Debian

Debian 7.0 wheezes in as GCEL hobbles out

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Updated Google is moving the default software for its rentable cloud servers from a custom version of Linux to Debian.

The decision to make Debian the default image type for Google Compute Engine was announced by the company on Thursday. As a consequence, Google's stripped down Linux OS GCEL (Google Compute Engine Linux) is being deprecated in favor of Debian 6.0 and 7.0

"We are continually evaluating other operating systems that we can enable with Compute Engine," Jimmy Kaplowitz, a Google site reliability engineer, wrote. "However, going forward, Debian will be the default image type for Compute Engine."

Google now recommends that all developers use Debian images rather than GCEL, which is "a Linux distribution using Debian packages found in typical minimal Ubuntu distributions," according to a Google FAQ.

By comparison, the Debian 6.0 "squeeze" and 7.0 "wheezy" distributions set as default for Google's cloud services have few differences, aside from having module loading and direct memory access disabled for security purposes.

"Google is interested in working with Debian to make the images even more standard and achieve official Debian image status," the Debian wiki says. "In the meantime, Debian has indicated that it's okay with these images being labeled as Debian instead of Debian-based."

Debian is a famously stable Linux distribution. Version 7 was released earlier this week after over two years of development. "If you're looking for a stable, rock solid Linux distro the new Debian will not disappoint," wrote our own penguin fiddler in a review of the distro.

Google's cloud also supports CentOS 6.2. At the time of writing, Google had not returned a request for information on the reasoning behind the move. ®

Update:

"We feel that customers will get a great experience having a Linux distribution that is maintained by the Debian community. Debian and derivatives thereof (such as Mint and Ubuntu) are among the most popular on the Internet, and Google itself is a heavy contributor to the Debian code base. We will also continue to offer CentOS, and are actively exploring other operating system options based on feedback from our customers," a Google spokesperson told us when we asked about the reason for the change.

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