Canonical pushes LXD, its new mysterious drug for Linux containers

We take the hype out of Ubuntu maker's non-hypervisor hypervisor

Curiouser and curiouser

In a post to the lxc-devel mailing list, Canonical engineer Stéphane Graber said LXD will be written in Google's Go language (which is popular with the Linux container dev community), will be "secure by default," and will support online snapshotting and live migration of containers between machines – but again, details on how all that will work are scant.

Kirkland did say that Canonical's tech used to go by the codename "flex" and that some of the foundations of LXD can be seen today in nova-compute-flex, an OpenStack component that ships as a technology preview in Ubuntu OpenStack Juno.

Canonical also claims to be "working with silicon companies to ensure hardware-assisted security and isolation" for LXD containers. Kirkland couldn't tell The Reg just what's going on there because of confidentiality agreements, but he told us that "multiple hardware vendors are rapidly extending some of the key CPU features that make cloud computing and virtualization practical."

"As soon as such hardware technology is enabled in Linux, you have our commitment that Ubuntu will predictably bring those features to end users faster than anyone else," Kirkland said.

Can Canonical pull it off?

This isn't the first time Canonical has talked up ambitious plans to reinvent major portions of Linux functionality. In March 2013 it announced Mir/XMir, a homegrown graphics display server that it boasted would replace the venerable X Window System in an Ubuntu release later that same year. That plan turned out to be overly optimistic, however, and Shuttleworth has since said that he doesn't expect Mir to be fully baked until Ubuntu 16.04, which will ship in the first half of 2016.

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the Linux community has been hard at work on Wayland, another X replacement, and not everyone is pleased that Canonical has decided to go off on its own. Intel, for one, has dropped support for Xmir in its graphics drivers, saying in a code commit, "We do not condone or support Canonical in the course of action they have chosen, and will not carry XMir patches upstream."

How much support LXD might gain outside of Canonical remains to be seen. But Google, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat, and several other vendors have already backed Google's Kubernetes container orchestration software, for example, and might not be persuaded by Canonical's call to switch to a different – and as-yet untried – approach.

Further details of what Canonical is up to with LXD are said to be forthcoming, and it will be developed in public view. The Ubuntu vendor says LXD will be a fully open source project under the Apache 2.0 license, and it even already has its own Github repository, although there was nothing much in there as we pushed the big, red "publish" button on this story.

In his mailing list post, Graber said that the first commits to the repository would include text versions of Canonical's original LXD design documents. After that, he said, the source code for the demo that Shuttleworth gave at the OpenStack Summit will make its way online in the coming days or weeks. ®

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