Cloud-Optimized Linux Cloud Computing

Vendors have sensed that as migration to the cloud accelerates, there is an pportunity for cloud-optimized versions of Linux. Three early entries in this category are Peppermint, CloudLinux, and Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud. We discuss them in the following sections.

CloudLinux
CloudLinux states that it is “. . . optimized for Web hosting, so it improves the stability of your servers, which helps to reduce churn related to downtime and outages.”CloudLinux is an operating system (OS) that is commercially supported and interchangeable with the most popular RPM-based distribution on the market. RPM is the baseline package format of the Linux Standard Base (LSB), which is a joint project of several Linux distributions under the organizational structure of the Linux Foundation. Its goal is to standardize the software system structure, including the file system hierarchy, used with the Linux operating system. The LSB is based on the POSIX specification, the Single UNIX Specification, and several other open standards, but extends them in certain areas.

CloudLinux is a commercially supported OS designed specifically for the service provider market. CloudServer’s revenue is derived mostly from support subscriptions (currently $14 per month, per server).

Lightweight Virtual Environment (LVE) Technology

LVE is an isolation technology that increases server density, stability and reliability. LVE limits the amount of resources (CPU, I/O, and memory) available to a specific process or customer. It is a lightweight andtransparent shell. LVE wraps the accounts on a shared server to give hosting providers control over CPU resources.

What Can LVE Do?

  • Give hosting providers control over CPU resources (I/O and memory limits to be released)
  • Prevent individual accounts from slowing down or taking down a server
  • Protect servers from unpredictable issues that drain resources for other tenants
  • Increase density so you can host more tenants on one server
  • Identify accounts that are over-using resources so you can address their needs
  • Lower risk and increase efficiency on shared servers
  • Improve server performance

LVE Wrappers
LVE Wrappers, based on LVE technology, allow you to manage resources at the application level. For example, CloudLinux can enable you to control server resources like Mail, MySQL, and Apache within the server.

According to a CloudLinux press release, LVE Wrappers’ tools “allow the administrator to control CPU usage on a server at the tenant or application level. LVE Wrappers allow the server owner to control resources for each application they run, which gives them greater flexibility and stability from the overall server infrastructure.”16 LVE Wrappers enable the server owner to:

. . . start individual applications and daemons inside LVE environments, isolating resource usage for each program. That allows greater overall stability of the server, as one application cannot affect all theother applications running on the server. This is especially useful for servers running multiple applications. For instance, a dedicated server runs a variety of software, such as mail, MySQL and Apache, often at the same time. A spike in mail traffic or a bug in the antispam filtering could affect the Web server—and cause the Web site to slow down. CloudLinux lets the administrator have better control and make sure each daemon only gets the preset amount of CPU. The administrator now has the tools to alter the amount of CPU any application can get— on the fly.

Peppermint

Peppermint

Peppermint OS desktop and menu.

Peppermint (peppermintos.com) was designed for enhanced mobility, efficiency, and ease of use. It is cloud- and Web-centric, lightweight (under 512 MB), fast, and boots quickly. It contains:

  • Linux Kernel 2.6.32
  • Xorg 7.5
  • Openbox 3.4.10
  • PCManFM 0.9.5
  • LXSession 0.4.3

Its default applications are Firefox Web Browser, Drop-Box, Exaile (music management and player), Prism, X-Chat (IRC client), and Transmission (bit torrent client). Of course, you can add your own.

Prism17 is designed to create a better environment for running your favorite Web-based applications. Much of what we used to accomplish using an application running locally on our computers is moving into the Web browser. Thanks to advances in Web technology, these apps are increasingly powerful and usable. As a result, applications like Gmail, Facebook and Google Docs are soaring in popularity.

Prism allows you to launch and operate Web- and cloud-based applications as if they were actually installed as desktop programs. When you first log into Peppermint, you can access the Main Menu on the bottom left of the desktop by clicking on the Peppermint Candy icon. If you browse to the Sound & Video section, take a glimpse of the applications listed. There are several preloaded Prism “launchers” in this menu, including Pandora, Hulu, and YouTube. By selecting any one of these, Prism will launch each service in its own application window—not in your Web browser. Peppermint is different from (but related to) Linux Mint, a Debian-based distribution developed by Clement Lefebvre and his team.

Ubuntu’s Cloud Strategy

Ubuntu adopted the following approach (as outlined by Simon Wardley of the Linux distribution’s commercial sponsor, Canonical):

  • make the cloud simple.
  • focus on one layer of the computing stack (infrastructure) to begin with.
  • help drive standardization (a key requirements of this shift towards a service world) by adopted public de-facto standards.
  • provide open source systems to avoid lock-in issues.
  • actively work to mitigate risks and concerns over cloud by giving our users options.

Ubuntu’s approach, Wardley continues,

. . . was based around the adoption of Amazon EC2/S3 and EBS as the public de facto standard . . . We provided images for use on Amazon EC2 (public cloud) and the technology to build your own private cloud (known as Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud) that matched the same APIs of Amazon. We also added management tools which could cross both public and private domains because of our adoption of a standard API set.

Ubuntu’s partners include:

  • Eucalyptus18 whose open source technology was adopted into the distribution as a core part of Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC).
  • Intel, whose Cloud Builder program19 provides best practices on how to create a private cloud using UEC. I’d strongly recommend reading the white paper.
  • RightScale20 and CohesiveFT21 [described separately in this chapter] to provide best-of-breed public management tools alongside Ubuntu’s own Landscape system.

Wardley states that Ubuntu offers:

  • Simple Choices: You can have either private, public or hybrid (i.e. public + private) infrastructure clouds.
  • Simple Setup: If you want to build a private cloud, then Ubuntu makes the set-up ridiculously easy. You can be up and running with your own cloud in minutes. . . .
  • Simple Management: You can use the same tools for both your private and public clouds because we’ve standardised around a common set of APIs.
  • Simple Bursting: Since we provides common machine images which run on both public and private cloud offerings combined with standardised APIs, then the process of moving infrastructure and combining both private and public clouds is . . . simpler.
  • Enterprise Help: . . . 24x7 support and a jumpstart program to get your company into the cloud are provided at a cost [similar to most open source vendors].
  • Open source: UEC, the Ubuntu machine images and all the basic tools are open sourced. . . . The system is open source and free and so are all the security patches and version upgrades.

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