It doesn't have the same kind of high-profile marketing machine as Red Hat, for example, but Ubuntu is the OS that's driving many evolutionary cloud projects, including OpenStack.
I got a chance to sit down with Kyle MacDonald, VP of Cloud for Ubuntu / Canonical, which is the enterprise support wing of the open-source project.
MacDonald pointed out that Ubuntu is the quiet leader in cloud development, noting that Hortonworks, a popular Hadoop solution provider, built all of its tools on Ubuntu desktops. He said Ubuntu accounts for some 70 percent of VM instances on Amazon Web Services.
Ubuntu is also the "most popular" version of Linux running on Micosoft's Azure cloud, he added, and the OS is popular on Rackspace and HP Cloud, as well.
The OpenStack standard is also heavily weighted toward Ubuntu, he said. Linux players like Red Hat and Suse are only joining the workgroup in recent months.
MacDonald and his staff aim to bring Ubuntu-based clouds to the mainstream by setting up proofs of concept among carrier telsco businesses. "It's very hard to prove something's real unless the right person stands up and says it is," he said, and carrier networks provide the opportunity for scale that will showcase Ubuntu's versatility.
"There are lots of people who are going to be at the OpenStack party, but they're not running workloads at the scale and mission criticality of infrastructure that we are," he said.
Ubuntu also supports VMware's cloud-management solutions, in recognition of its dominant position in enterprise datacenters. "This is not a story of competing against VMware or replacing VMware," MacDonald asserted, "It's about how can we enable a service provider to deliver cloud, and there's no reason why they can't leverage their VMware assets."
The partnership was announced in April, but now, three of the top five banks in the world are rolling out proofs-of-concept for OpenStack, MacDonald reported. The largest enterprises and banks are "consolidating onto OpenStack at the cloud platform layer" he said, and creating centers of excellence around that standard. "If you're a CIO," he added, "you're paying attention to the fact that OpenStack has the giant ecosystem."
SDN & democratization
MacDonald also discussed the integral role OpenStack plays in software-defined networking (SDN), considered by many to be the "next big thing" in datacenter virtualization and cloud management.
"With API-level access into the network," he explained, "[SDN] makes 'magic bandwidth' happen on the fly between two entities." Actual adoption is low right now, but the ability of network virtualization to abstract routing instructions from switch hardware will usher in a new age of cheap equipment, MacDonald said.
The server industry was, to a degree, blindsided by the rise of cloud computing, he said, but networking firms are well aware of the danger that SDN represents, so their adoption or impedance of the technology will be interesting to watch. He called it a war of established players against commodity, or next-generation equipment. (Blogger Jim O'Reilley discusses this phenomenon in Open-Source KVM Closing on VMware.)
MacDonald talked about having to shell out thousands of dollars to his first network infrastructure vendor for every feature upgrade, and how the arrival of competing network vendors created a more balanced market. "Many IT managers have been through this chain of experience," he said, "and SDN represents a way to buck that trend."
What do you think, members? Is open-source the way forward with cloud management? Share your thoughts in the comments.