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Canonical adds ARM servers to Landscape control freak

Shifting server management into 'hyperscale'

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Commercial Linux distributor Canonical is jumping out ahead of the pack again, and has updated its Landscape management tool for its Ubuntu Server distribution so it can manage instances of Linux running on ARM-based systems as well as the X86 iron it already supports.

With Landscape support, Canonical is getting into position to provide hand-holding to companies that will test and then hopefully (for ARM Holdings and Canonical alike) deploy ARM-based systems to run some of their workloads.

Landscape brings package management, patching, reporting, and security policy enforcement. The Landscape agent runs in the Linux user space, far above the kernel, so it doesn't really give a tinker's damn about the underlying bitness of the ARM or x86 server underneath it. Shifting to a new processor with different bitness is therefore a relative snap.

The updated Landscape, which has a 13.09 release number when you install it inside your own data center but which has no release number when Canonical runs it on your behalf in its own data center as a SaaS offering, comes out ahead of Ubuntu Server 10.13, due next month. At that time, Landscape will be tweaked with other features, Federico Lucifredi tells El Reg; he did not elaborate further.

This Landscape 13.09 release is all about ARM. Specifically, machines that are based on Calxeda's quad-core, 32-bit ECX-1000 system-on-chip (SoC) designs that are running Ubuntu Server can now be managed using Landscape, and ditto for boxes using Marvell's Armada XP chips, which come in variants with two or four cores with 32-bit memory addressing and four cores with 40-bit extended addressing.

Ubuntu Server is also supported on the Xilinx Zync-7020 processor, which has two Cortex-A9 cores that run at 800MHz and an FPGA all one the same die. And that means Landscape can manage El Reg's personal favorite in wimpy yet brawny iron, the Parallel-16 hybrid board, which mixes the Xilinx hybrid with Adapteva's own massively multi-cored Epiphany RISC processors to do a lot of crunching for those ARM cores.

"We have been producing an ARM release of Ubuntu for different SoCs for a little while, and this is really confirmation that we are completely committed to ARM," Mark Baker, server product manager at Canonical, tells El Reg.

Baker was not at liberty to talk about the future ARM SoCs that would be supported by Ubuntu Server and Landscape, but it doesn't take a genius to figure it out. Canonical is bragging that it is the preferred operating system on the "Centerton" Atom S1260-based server cartridges for HP's Moonshot system, and you can bet that Canonical is trying to get the same status on future Moonshot server nodes. These include server cartridges based on the "Kyoto" Opteron X processors from AMD, which El Reg told you about in early June as well as three other cards we spotted in the wild later that month.

Two Moonshot cartridges are based on Intel's new eight-core "Avoton" Atom C2000, which just blows the Atom S1260 out of the water; one has a single Avoton and a future card will pack four on the card, just like HP is doing with the AMD Opteron X card.

Another Moonshot card crams four four-core Calxeda EXC-1000 processors onto the cartridge, and yet another has four of Texas Instruments' KeyStone II ARM-DSP hybrids onto a single cartridge. Presumably HP is also working with Applied Micro Circuits to get its 64-bit, eight-core X-Gene ARM server chip, due before the end of the year, into the Moonshot chassis, and ditto for the future "Seattle" eight-core, 64-bit ARM chip that is expected from AMD next year.

It stands to reason also that any ARM or x86 node that is made to work inside of the Open Compute Project's "Group Hug" microserver chassis will get lots of attention from Canonical with regard to Ubuntu Server and Landscape.

Canonical is being practical about wimpy and brawny systems and is pricing its Ubuntu Advantage support contracts, which come with the Landscape service woven in, roughly according to processing capacity. It costs $700 for an annual support contract for Ubuntu Server on a plain-vanilla two-socket x86 machines. On a Moonshot chassis with its full complement of 45 SoCs loaded up, the Ubuntu Advantage contract will run you $6,500, or about $144 per node. ®

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