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Linux on the Cloud: The Ubuntu Way


Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux, has always had many enthusiastic user and developer fans. It’s a different story within the enterprise. Canonical has been trying to improve its business reputation though in both the server and cloud spaces. In particular, according to Neil Levine, Canonical’s VP of Commercial Services, Canonical has been working hard to bring Ubuntu’s well-known ease of use on the desktop to cloud deployments.

A recent xample of this was Canonical and IBM’s launch of a virtual appliance of IBM’s DB2 Express-C database management system. This virtual application can run on the Ubuntu cloud computing platform, in private and public cloud configurations.

DB2 Express-C is IBM’s free community edition of DB2 software. Small businesses and multi-branch companies, as well as developers, can use it as their DBMS platform. DB2 Express-C has all of DB2’s core features and can be used to power in-house DBMS applications, Web 2.0, and SOA-based solutions.

How this can work for an enterprise, said Levine, is “to give large companies a way to get a taste of our low-cost way to try Ubuntu and DB2 on public cloud. If you want to try it, you can.” Then, if you like the experience, you can use a more powerful DB2/Ubuntu stack on either a public or private crowd, “using the same tools and architecture that you’re already using. There’s no need to re-architect it.”

This is all part of Canonical’s plan to make Ubuntu just as much of an enterprise business player as Novell or Red Hat. Without much notice, Ubuntu has already “become one of the most popular guest operating systems on cloud services like Rackspace and Amazon EC2,” according to Levine. Increasingly, it is also being deployed as the host cloud infrastructure layer by private organizations and ISPs.

If you don’t trust the public clouds, you can use Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud. This combines Ubuntu 10.04 with the open-source Eucalyptus cloud software so creating your own cloud requires little more than plugging in USB-sticks and running installation routines on your existing servers.

You might say at this point: That that’s all very well and good, but don’t other cloud vendors promise similar services? And, if one really wanted Linux, couldn’t you simply use Red Hat Cloud? Canonical admits that’s all true, but, Levine said, “Canonical is trying to make using Ubuntu and a serious DBMS like DB2 as easy to use on a cloud as using Ubuntu already is on the desktop.”

In addition, like Red Hat before it, Canonical is now offering enterprise-level support for both its server and cloud-based Linux offerings via its Ubuntu Server Advantage support plan. The Essential edition, which doesn’t include cloud support, includes Landscape Hosted Edition, the equivalent of Red Hat Network.

For cloud users, the Standard edition of the Ubuntu Advantage package for servers adds virtualization and Windows integration support. At this level, cloud support is an option. This edition costs $700 per machine per year and only has 9×5 coverage. The Standard Cloud add-on for Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud costs an additional $350 per year. This brings the total cost to a minimum of $1,350.

Ubuntu Advantage Server Advanced Edition bundles in support for clustering and high availability and the custom package repository that Canonical has set up for Ubuntu; it costs $1,200 per year and has 24×7 coverage. Throwing in the Advanced Cloud add-on for Ubuntu Enterprise runs an extra $600 per year per machine, bringing the total cost for 24×7 support and the cloud to $1,800 a year.

On the other hand, Canonical’s support options is per server, not per core or virtual machine. This makes Canonical’s offering quite attractive.

If Canonical is indeed successful in making its server use as easy on the cloud as it already on the desktop, then even a comparatively minimal support contract might be all your corporation needs to run Ubuntu Linux on the cloud. While it’s still early days in the cloud for all vendors, Canonical’s offerings bears keeping an eye both for its low overall costs and for its ease of installation and maintenance.

Last, but not least, Canonical is forming strong strategic partnerships with such major vendors as Alfresco, Amazon, Ingres, IBM, Rackspace, and VMware. It certainly appears as if Canonical will soon be able to offer not just ease-of-use and low cost, but an excellent selection of both enterprise applications and cloud platforms to business users. When looking at your cloud plans, Canonical deserves to be considered.

This is a version of a story that first appeared in IT Expert Voice.