How UCSB Grad Students Put Cloud Computing Power into Ubuntu

UPDATED: Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud package includes the UCSB-developed Eucalyptus cloud-building software -- the first Linux distribution to include a do-it-yourself cloud kit. Eucalyptus adds a number of new functions to Ubuntu, such as end-user customization, self-service provisioning, legacy application support and automated power controls.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A National Science Foundation grant project developed largely by graduate students at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has resulted in Eucalyptus Systems, a three-month-old startup which has produced new open-source cloud infrastructure software that is a key component in Ubuntu 9.04 and its upcoming 9.10 edition.

Ubuntu is a popular Debian Linux-based open-source operating system created by developer and Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth that has been used increasingly in enterprise IT systems. Eucalyptus is an open-source software platform for developing on-premise private and hybrid clouds using a system's existing hardware and software infrastructure with no modifications.

This is a little tricky to explain, so we're breaking this out for easier consumption:

--Ubuntu 9.10, nicknamed Karmic Koala [all Ubuntu releases are named after animals], is now in alpha testing and scheduled for general release in October 2009.

--Karmic Koala is the operating system of Ubuntu's new cloud-building package called Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud, which includes Eucalyptus.

--Canonical released a preview edition of the UEC in April for the current 9.04 version, called Jaunty Jackalope.

--UK-based Canonical guides all Ubuntu development, and its open-source community is the maintainer for all Ubuntu products.

Got all that?

Eucalyptus adds a number of important new functions to Ubuntu -- such as end-user customization, self-service provisioning and legacy application support -- in addition to its standard data center virtualization features. It also includes automated power-control features to cut down on unnecessary electricity taken from the wall.

Ubuntu is the first Linux distribution to include this many cloud-building resources. This is as close to a do-it-yourself cloud kit as there ever has been.
"You can install it on your own server in just a couple of minutes, and the API looks just like Amazon EC2," Eucalyptus Systems co-founder/CTO and UCSB computer science professor Rich Wolski told eWEEK July 23 during a break at the OSCON 2009 conference here at the Convention Center.
Thus, it's not surprising that Eucalyptus also includes Amazon's Web Services APIs (EC2, S3, EBS) and support for Xen and KVM (kernel-based virtual machine) servers. "You literally can build your own cloud system in six steps," Wolski said.
It follows that cloud computing developers with experience using the well-established Amazon EC2 development environment should be able to move comfortably over to Eucalyptus, if they choose to do so.
A current example of Eucalyptus working in a large system is a project by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Lab, which is currently deploying Eucalyptus to modernize its computing and storage capacity. Another early adopter is pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, which also is using Eucalyptus to build a new computing and storage cloud.
Research Project Launches a New Company
Wolski and CEO Woody Rollins launched Eucalyptus Systems in April, immediately after they landed $5.5 million in Series A funding from Benchmark Capital and BV Capital. The software was developed as part of a research project aimed at linking up a couple of National Science Foundation supercomputers with public cloud services in order to run heavy-duty scientific workloads.
Simon Wardley, head of cloud strategy at Canonical, said in his OSCON keynote address July 23 that ultimately, enterprises can optimize server use, increase data center efficiencies, and lower power/cooling/storage costs by creating private clouds with self-service IT like Ubuntu/Eucalyptus.
"Ubuntu is the first Linux distribution to provide such a system, and now Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Services will help businesses build these environments with optimal efficiency," Wardley said.
Canonical is making no secret of the fact that since Eucalyptus enables enterprises to test, deploy and experiment with their own private, in-house clouds, it competes squarely with Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) API.
"The Eucalyptus project enables you to create an EC2-style cloud in your own data center, on your own hardware," Shuttleworth wrote in his introduction to Karmic Koala in the Ubuntu users' e-mail list. "During the Karmic [Koala] cycle, we expect to make those clouds dance, with dynamically growing and shrinking resource allocations depending on your needs.
"A savvy Koala knows that the best way to conserve energy is to go to sleep, and these days even servers can suspend and resume, so imagine if we could make it possible to build a cloud computing facility that drops its energy use virtually to zero by napping in the midday heat, and waking up when there's work to be done," Shuttleworth said.
"No need to drink at the energy fountain when there's nothing going on. If we get all of this right, our Koala will help take the edge off the bear market."
For more information on Eucalyptus, go here. For more information on Ubuntu, go here.
Editor's note: This story was updated to include the fact that Eucalyptus is also included in the current Ubuntu 9.04 version.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...