Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind the open-source Ubuntu Linux operating system, today announced an expansion of its push to embed Linux in everything from phones to refrigerators—and now network switches. The Snappy Ubuntu Core Linux operating system, a minimal version of Ubuntu Linux that provides an improved updating and security model, is designed for embedded devices and the Internet of things (IoT).
Snappy was first announced in December 2014 and became generally available with the Ubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet release on April 23. To date, Canonical has positioned Snappy as a platform for the cloud and mobile devices and is now bringing it to Open Compute Platform (OCP) network switches. The OCP networking effort kicked off in 2013 as a way to enable an organization to choose the operating system they want to run on an open networking switch.
"Switches to us are important and very strategic," Dustin Kirkland, product manager at Canonical, told eWEEK. "There is switch at the top of every rack in every data center."
With OCP, switching is now happening on commodity hardware, typically with some form of Linux as a base operating system, Kirkland said. There are multiple vendors in the Linux for networking space today, including Cumulus Networks and Big Switch Networks, that Ubuntu Linux will now compete against.
"We are positioning Snappy for switches, bringing the Ubuntu Linux experience that many developers are already familiar with," Kirkland said. "The same Ubuntu Linux skills from the server world apply in the Ubuntu-on-a-switch role."
Switching also plays well into what Canonical is doing with the open-source OpenStack cloud platform. Having control of the network at the switch level, for security or access, can all be driven from an integrated Ubuntu platform.
While Ubuntu is now coming to switches, Canonical is not going to become a switching vendor. Rather, Canonical will take care of the kernel and operating system layer with Snappy, and the network functions virtualization (NFV) feature can sit on top, Kirkland said.
"Virtual switching software vendors can concentrate on their expertise, be it hardware or the network application, and we at Canonical will take care of the operating system layer," Kirkland said.
A key part of the OCP networking effort is the ONIE (Open Network Install Environment) technology that enables an organization to deploy whatever networking operating system they choose. With Snappy, Canonical wants to further enable ONIE to be easier to use and deploy.
"We have taken ONIE and enabled it so it can run inside of Snappy as an application," Kirkland said. "So a switch vendor can ship a switch that has a super-small Snappy environment running ONIE, and then, from that, the user could download and install whatever network environment they want."
The operating system that ultimate runs on an open switch could be Snappy Ubuntu, or it could be a different operating system, Kirkland said.
Switches aren't the only place where Canonical has made news this week with Snappy. The technology is also powering a new generation of Internet-connected Chillhub refrigerators from General Electric's (GE) Firstbuild effort.
"It's exciting, and we love to see Ubuntu everywhere we can see it," Kirkland said. "The beauty of GE for us is that GE's business spans from toasters and microwaves to medical devices and jet engines and everything in between—the opportunity at GE is tremendous."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.