Exploring Ubuntu Cloud, Landscape
Ubuntu Cloud I spent a great deal of time working with the Ubuntu Cloud install, partially because I was really interested in having my own personal cloud, and partially because it took a great deal of time to slog through the docs and actually get a working configuration.Ubuntu's Cloud implementation is Eucalyptus, a private cloud implementation of AWS (Amazon Web Services), specifically EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) and S3 (Simple Storage Service). Ubuntu offers a couple of sets of management tools for the cloud services, command line tools and the ElasticFox Firefox plug-in for working with the services. You'll need to do a fair amount of command line work to get the cloud controller and clients up and working, but things seem to go fairly smoothly after everything is installed. The cloud configurations for Lynx are interesting and if your shop is trying to set up a private cloud, I'd recommend looking into Lynx. But unless you or your staff are already familiar with Eucalyptus, it's going to take a bit of time to become competent at setting up the systems and managing them effectively. Note that you can also easily run Ubuntu LTS on AWS as well. The images are already available in the AWS store and can be fired up in just a few minutes if you have an AWS account. Landscape and management You can streamline system management with Ubuntu's Landscape, assuming your organization is willing to pony up for the fee of $150 per node, per year. Landscape is also included with Canonical's optional server support contracts. The Landscape offering is fairly good, but the costs can rack up pretty quickly if you're working with tens or hundreds of nodes. One of the hopes I had for Ubuntu when the first server edition was announced was that Canonical would invest in some open-source management tools to make Ubuntu Server as easy to use as the desktop edition. That has not happened, however. Many of the operations you'll want to perform require old-school editing of configuration files, rather than using simpler management tools like YaST or Anaconda. One option is to install the eBox packages and use the platform's Web-based interface, but I'd really like to see better client-side tools as well and not just Web-based administration tools. I am slightly concerned about Landscape and hosting all my management tools with a third party. If Canonical has an outage, suddenly my management tools go away. This isn't to say Canonical is going to have rampant downtime, but it's a concern. Documentation The Ubuntu community documentation for the desktop is relatively good, as community distros go. Coupled with the fact that the desktop is fairly straightforward and easy to use, Ubuntu docs tend to be sufficient for the desktop. But Canonical needs to invest much more in its documentation on the server side, and soon. The server docs are scant and often unclear. The docs for configuring the cloud services, for example, assume a fair amount of knowledge and tend to be muddy in places. They do tend to be accurate, but fairly skeletal in nature.
You can set up the cloud services manually by installing the packages needed, or simply select the cloud install from the server CD installer. At a minimum, you'll need two machines for a cloud system, and at least one will need to be a newer system with virtualization extensions to run KVM. This dashed my hopes of having an inexpensive cloud cluster with several nodes, as many of the servers I have handy are missing the VT extensions.