Ubuntu Linux Plots Course for a 'Xenial' Future

Ubuntu 15.10, also known as the Wily Werewolf, is out this week, but the big changes are in store for Ubuntu 16.04 "Xenial Xerus" in 2016.

Ubuntu 15.10

Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind the Ubuntu Linux open-source operating system, debuted its Ubuntu 15.10 release on Oct. 22, providing new server and cloud features. Canonical considers Ubuntu 15.10, a.k.a. Wily Werewolf, a stepping stone to its 16.04 Long Term Support (LTS) release, which is code-named the Xenial Xerus.

Dustin Kirkland, product manager at Canonical, explained that in 15.10 the LXD container hypervisor has been improved, enabling users to securely run and manage containers. The LXD effort was first announced nearly a year ago at the OpenStack Summit in Paris.

"You can treat it [LXD] like a virtual machine and add or reduce CPU, memory and disk capacity as needed," he said.

LXD is now available to OpenStack cloud users as a well, according to Kirkland. He noted that with the addition of LXD, there is now another hypervisor available from which cloud administrators can choose. OpenStack's Nova compute already can support VMware ESX, Microsoft Hyper-V, and the open-source Xen and KVM hypervisors.

"Just like all of those other hypervisors, you can now run LXD instances, and in doing so, from the cloud administrator perspective, you have the ability for more density to host more container instances," Kirkland said. "From the end-user perspective, you get virtual instances that are running on the underlying infrastructure."

The LXD driver for OpenStack is currently available in Ubuntu's OpenStack release as a technology preview, but is not yet available in the upstream OpenStack project. The OpenStack Liberty release debuted on Oct. 15. The plan for LXD is for it to be committed upstream to the mainline of OpenStack for the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS cycle. The new Ubuntu 15.10 release is considered a regular release and is only supported for nine months; in contrast, an LTS release is supported for up to five years.

"For Canonical, our business ultimately revolves around LTS cycles, so we'd like to see LXD come into production for the 16.04 release," Kirkland said.

Canonical is also busy working on its Snappy Ubuntu version, an optimized Linux distribution that is well-suited for Internet of things (IoT) deployments. Snappy is now being deployed in General Electric refrigerators and networking switches, among other use cases.

Snappy debuted alongside the Ubuntu 15.04 release and is set for its next major release alongside Ubuntu 16.04. That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't new tools for developers to try out for Snappy. Among them is a tool called Snapcraft, which enables developers to easily build Snappy packages.

"The goal is to be able to point Snapcraft at a code repository and then generate a Snappy application," Kirkland said.

To date, Kirkland said that Ubuntu has built more than 40,000 Snappy packages, but there are still many more that can be built, and that's where Snapcraft will play a key role.

Mark Baker, Canonical product manager, noted that Ubuntu 15.10 now also supports Intel's Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK), which helps to enable a degree of software-defined networking (SDN). The goal is to harden and improve DPDK in time for the Ubuntu 16.04 release in 2016.

The Ubuntu Metal-as-a-Service (MaaS) technology gets an incremental update in 15.10 with user interface improvements. MaaS enables administrators to manage and provision physical servers. In the works for Ubuntu 16.04 are new features for more sophisticated deployments of storage and networking, Kirkland explained.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.