Ubuntu and Dell have come up with a scheme to make it easier for Amazon EC2 customers to shift workloads to and from the cloud -- by shipping Dell servers preloaded with Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud software, or UEC.
What's interesting is that the two have said they are also supporting OpenStack, a standard intended to provide an alternative to Amazon lock-in. But these servers, the PowerEdge C2100 and C6100, will not include OpenStack, at least out of the gate.
UEC is based on based on Eucalyptus Systems' "private" cloud technology, which is a fancy way of saying it virtualizes a server's resources. UEC and Eucalyptus are aligned closely with Amazon EC2, and include EC2's APIs. Indeed, Eucalyptus Systems' famous CEO, Marten Mickos (formerly of MySQL), is known to be an advocate of the idea that EC2's APIs are a de facto standard in the cloud world and there's nothing wrong with treating them like a real standard. (A de facto standard? Widely used technology controlled by a single company? Didn't that way of doing interoperability go out with the 1990s?)
I pointed out the problem with vendor lock-in after my last interview with Canonical, in conjunction with the release of Ubuntu 10.10. Shortly after my post, word leaked that Canonical wanted to shed its total dependence on Amazon and Eucalyptus. Rumors surfaced that it would add support for the OpenStack API, developed by Rackspace and founded on code from NASA's Nebula cloud. Dell also signed on as an OpenStack supporter (as have other heavy hitters including Microsoft with Hyper-V).
Earlier this month, Canonical confirmed that its next big release of Ubuntu, code-named Natty Narwhal (v11.04), would include both Eucalyptus and OpenStack. It is scheduled for release in April.
OpenStack isn't the only cloud standard being championed by open source advocates. Red Hat has its DeltaCloud, and Cloud.com has its Cloudstack, for instance. There's also a scattering of other standards that coulda-woulda-still-might have an impact, such as a VM portability standard (championed by CA and run by the DMTF) called Open Virtualization Format (OVF). OVF, however, like most of the others, hasn't gotten much traction yet.
Again, since Canonical expects to have its first stable implementation of OpenStack available in April, it makes sense that these Dell servers, available this week, wouldn't include support for it. But these servers also won't include support as an included upgrade option when Natty Narwhal is released in April. A spokesperson told me, "OpenStack will be available from the Ubuntu repositories but the supported version, i.e. the version that you buy support for, will be for Eucalyptus-based UEC. Future support for OpenStack is a possibility as a bundled support product, but not for April."
Mark Shuttleworth used pretty delicate language in discussing why Ubuntu was adding OpenStack to its wares (which can't make its longtime partner Eucalyptus happy), in an interview with Dell's cloud computing evangelist Barton George. He clearly doesn't want to force his enterprise users into Amazon's arms, but isn't going to align with a standard that doesn't have a lot of support, or is the brainchild of his biggest competitor, Red Hat.
The new servers include UEC, a reference implementation for cloud computing, and technical support from both Dell and Canonical. Prices begin at $5,950 for one year's support on a "base pack" UEC deployment, which includes up to five cloud nodes. Support for additional bundles of cloud nodes can be purchased for about $1,300, more or less, depending on the number of nodes supported, with discounts of up to 50% available for those purchasing support on large numbers of cloud nodes (50 or more).
Julie Bort writes the Source Seeker blog on Open Source Subnet. Follow Julie Bort on Twitter @Julie188. Follow Open Source Subnet on Twitter @OSSubnet.