Ubuntu has a clearly stated mission: to select the best components from open source, to assemble and refine them, to encourage ecosystem development and to provide the best possible experience to our users while avoiding lock-in and the creation of monopolies. Our cloud strategy follows this same mission.

Since John McCarthy & Douglas Parkhill in the 1960s, while many people, have predicted and described the development of the cloud computing industry, this transition from a product to a more service oriented and 'cloudy' world has only begun in earnest during the last decade.

This transition won't happen in one step and there are many barriers to its current use, however, the shift has started and the overwhelming benefits of cloud computing (i.e. elastic infrastructure, efficiency of resource utilization, reduction of capital expenditure, focus on core activities) is likely to accelerate this change. What this means is that more and more of the applications that we use today on our personal computers or servers will soon migrate to the cloud and self-service IT environments.

Risks Worth Noting

While the benefits of public clouds are numerous, free software advocates frequently warn of the risks that the use of proprietary software and  data formats implies for the long term survival of their data. In the cloud, these risks are heightened and new risks such as a lack of transparency in relationships appear.

What will happen to your data/application if the cloud it is hosted on goes bust? Will you be able to shift it to another cloud swiftly? Who is actually running your cloud?

In the traditional software model, if your hardware manufacturer, O/S provider or software vendor disappears then you may still have a few months or even years to migrate  to another platform. Your commercial  continuity is not necessarily in  immediate danger. In the cloud model, you need to be able shift almost instantaneously! Commercial continuity can only be secured by having a variety of second sourcing options and ideally, a selection of providers that you can switch between.

Ubuntu's Approach

Ubuntu is focused on building open-source software systems that will allow you and others to provide infrastructure, platform or application services. Ubuntu is not offering to host these services but instead we're defining an open-source stack (an open-source reference model) that any provider, whether internal to an organization or external, can use to provide these services.

After a careful study of the current cloud market, we identified the EC2, EBS and S3 API as emerging de-facto industry standard infrastructure stack.  Our initial step in this space was therefore to offer official images of Ubuntu on the Amazon Web Service Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

Our second step was to select a software stack that would allow people to build their own cloud infrastructure which matched these de facto standards.  Eucalyptus was selected  as the best open-source component  in terms of the quality of the implementation and in the willingness of the upstream project to share and work with us towards our vision.

With Ubuntu 9.04 Server Edition (April 2009), an enhanced version of Eucalyptus that uses the KVM hypervisor was integrated into the distribution. This allowed any user to deploy a cloud that matches the same API that AWS provides. This system is Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC).

To help promote this, Canonical also announced a series of cloud specific services, from consulting to support and training,  designed to help organizations get started with cloud computing.

In the next couple of Ubuntu releases, our goal is to have a complete infrastructure layer for the cloud that will enable anyone deploy their own cloud, whether it is for their own use (private cloud), or public consumption...

This entry is adapted from a white paper published by Canonical, from which you can learn more about the UEC architecture.

nickbarcetNicolas (Nick) Barcet is server product manager at Canonical. Guest blog entries such as this one are contributed on a monthly basis as part of WorksWithU's 2009 sponsorship program.