Ubuntu is Canonical’s distribution system for Linux designed to run on computing devices, network servers, and in the cloud. It includes an OpenStack version and a newly launched Kubernetes option. It also is the basis for most public cloud instances, including Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Oracle Cloud.
Stephan Fabel, director of product at Canonical, said the company has increasingly seen enterprises looking for a lower cost and higher performance alternative to VMware-based virtual machine deployments. And that it’s seen private cloud wins against the likes of Red Hat and VMware.
“The pattern emerging is companies looking for alternatives to VMware at better economics,” Fabel explained. “A majority of the deals have been us bidding against Red Hat.”
He said those deals have included enterprises looking for deployments of OpenStack and Kubernetes together. Some of those enterprises have increasingly focused in multi-cloud environments and are using Kubernetes as a transport layer to move data between different cloud resources.
Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth chimed in that Canonical’s OpenStack was a less expensive and easier option for developers to work with compared with VMware. “VMware is expensive. OpenStack is replacing it,” Shuttleworth said.
Clean Kubernetes as a Commodity
The latest updates include the commoditization of Kubernetes, an internally developed container product designed for enterprise applications with faster boot time and a strong focus on supporting artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
As part of the latest Ubuntu release, Canonical’s own Kubernetes distribution is based on a clean model of the latest 1.10 version of the orchestration platform that can run on public clouds, VMware, OpenStack, and bare metal environments. Canonical is using that distribution platform to offer Kubernetes as a commodity.
“Economically, we think Kubernetes is a commodity, so we price Kubernetes as if it’s built into our core package for Ubuntu for the enterprise,” Shuttleworth said. “That lines up perfectly with the business models we see the public clouds adopting where Kubernetes is essentially a free service on top of the virtual machines you are paying for.”
The company is delivering the distribution as a clean upstream Kubernetes that aligns with public cloud providers. Those providers over the past year have all adopted Kubernetes support into their clouds. The alignment also allows Canonical to provide portability of enterprise workloads across private infrastructure and public clouds.
“We stand in stark contrast to other enterprise offerings that are overly complex and old-school economic models for infrastructure,” Shuttleworth said. “What developers want is vanilla Kubernetes. Our focus is on being the simplest and most cost-effective delivery for the new commodity infrastructure and in attracting third-party solutions.”
The Kubernetes distribution also supports GPU acceleration of workloads using a Nvidia device plugin. This is similar to recent efforts like the Kubeflow project to boost ML capabilities for organizations and a way to deploy ML applications at scale.
Kubeflow was launched late last year as an open source project that supports ML stacks on Kubernetes.
Developers using Ubuntu can create applications on their workstations, test them on private bare-metal Kubernetes with the Canonical Kubernetes distribution, and run those applications across vast data sets on a platform like Google’s Kubernetes Engine (GKE). Those models can then be ported using a seamless pipeline to Ubuntu devices at the edge of the network.
Canonical is also targeting enterprises struggling with legacy applications. The company has integrated its LXD 3.0 container platform that is designed for the “lift-and-shift” requirements of those legacy applications. LXD is a container-like platform that operates like a VM with a Linux guest operating system like Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), or CentOS.
“For a long time there was a view that there would only be one class of containers,” Shuttleworth said. “But now there is a view that there will be specific containers for legacy applications.”
Adoption of LXD also allows for enterprises that have not updated or received fixes for issues related to the Meltdown and Spectre bugs to lift those workloads into a container environment with the latest kernel security patches.
Canonical’s Ubuntu platform uses a naming scheme based on the year and month of the release, thus this latest update is dubbed 18.04. The latest release also earns a “long term support” (LTS) designation, which signifies a larger platform release and five years of support.
Canonical released a smaller Ubuntu update last October that included Kubernetes updates. The company’s smaller releases don’t include the LTS designation and only come with nine months of support.