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September 17, 2012
Running stable software often means sacrificing the latest and greatest software features — especially in the open source world, where development cycles tend to be rapid and bleeding edge code is available to anyone who dares run it. If you want to build a cloud infrastructure on Ubuntu, however, you no longer have to choose between stability and features, thanks to a new OpenStack archive from Canonical. Here’s the scoop.
As Mark Baker, Canonical’s Serve Product Manager, noted in a recent blog post, most production environment servers running Ubuntu are based on the longterm support (LTS) releases of the operating system. Those versions, which appear once every two years, have much longer support cycles than the other releases that Ubuntu developers push out twice a year.
But because Canonical generally provides only security and bug fix updates for LTS releases, rather than version upgrades, sticking with LTS means your application stack can become outdated. There are ways around this problem — “backporting” software, using PPA repositories or compiling applications from source — but none of these solutions is as convenient or secure as simply upgrading software to the most recent versions via Ubuntu’s standard repositories.
That’s why Canonical, in an unprecedented move, has introduced a new policy for delivering up to date versions of OpenStack, the open source cloud infrastructure, to users of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. As Baker explained:
We are now building, integrating, testing and publishing all the OpenStack milestones and stable releases on 12.04 LTS. … With a fast-moving technology such as OpenStack, this is hugely significant, as we see many customers testing the milestones and building seed clouds with the latest code.
He added that easier access to current OpenStack releases also helps developers, since a larger user base “helps us find bugs and improve the code for all.”
From a technical standpoint, what Canonical appears to be doing is not that different from creating a special repository dedicated to OpenStack. In that sense, not much is actually changing, since OpenStack PPAs are already available for Ubuntu 12.04 users who want to keep up to date with the latest releases of the cloud software.
But the major difference between those PPAs and Canonical’s new archive is that the latter will be an officially supported software source for Ubuntu users. As such, it should help ease the minds of server administrators who want to build cloud infrastructures on Ubuntu 12.04 but also need guarantees that their software will work.
Meanwhile, the OpenStack archive also highlights Canonical’s willingness to undertake extraordinary efforts to accommodate users interested in the cloud. It’s another sign of how vital the company expects this channel to be for Ubuntu’s future.
Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.
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