October 19, 2012, 8:26 AM — Yesterday's release of Ubuntu 12.10 was met with the usual fanfare as the Canonical and Ubuntu folks, who pretty much grab any chance to party they can get (Jono gets a haircut! Wooo!) celebrated the semi-annual release of one of the more popular Linux distributions.
Much as been said about the desktop side of the distribution. Steven Vaughan-Nichols says the whole thing works fine, albeit pokey; *El Reg* hates the integration of Amazon searching (though somehow they manage to avoid the gratuitous use of the term "boffins").
That's all well and good, but frankly the bit that caught my eye in the press material coming out was on the server side, where cloud computing is the big news and Unity is background noise.
The integration of OpenStack technology isn't new, according to Steve George, VP, Communications and Products at Canonical. This is the fifth server release that's thrown OpenStack bits in. OpenStack code is what powers the Ubuntu Cloud Infrastructure, and 12.10 diligently includes the latest OpenStack release, Folsom.
You may have heard some rumblings in the press about how OpenStack isn't quite ready for wide-scale deployment because no one's really put together a commercial product based on OpenStack yet. You've certainly heard it here. You may not be hearing that for long, because Canonical's latest entry in the "who will productize OpenStack first" race is pulling ahead.
It's all because of Juju, Canonical's cloud orchestration software that George describes as "package management for the cloud."
Juju is an automated service deployment tool that enables developers and administrators to spin up any sort of pre-configured node of any sort of cloud-based service. This pre-configuration is done with the use of charms. A charm is a way to wrap up the configuration of any cloud service so it can be replicated at a moment's notice by Juju.
George used the example of Apache Tomcat, the web and servlet server that takes a few minutes to install but then, in George's words, you have to read a 400-page book just to configure the thing. With Juju, you can find a charm that meets all or most of your Tomcat configuration needs and just spin it up. If you need to tweak the configuration later, that's fine. Then all you have to do is make a charm out of your configuration and boom, you've got a service that's instantly repeatable.
Thinking about all the configuration hassles that OpenStack currently has, the thought of being able to get an OpenStack charm that can do the needed job sounds like a big step towards a final finished product to me.
George drew a good analogy between the problems OpenStack has now and that of another once-complicated piece of software to install: Apache Server. In the days before Debian's package management, Apache used to be very hard to install and configure. Now, it's almost a trivial exercise.
This is exactly the kind of ease-of-use Canonical hopes Juju will bring to the table. Right now, it's hard not to see Juju as being an essential building block for cloud computing.
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