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RightScale Supports Ubuntu on Amazon EC2

Fear not, this is not a rehash of our press release from the other day. I was browsing what people wrote about Ubuntu and EC2 and I'm amazed at some of the confusion. The most bizarre so far is an article about "Ubuntu's next wave: Open server, closed cloud," talking about how Canonical is steering users to Amazon's "closed cloud" in order to monetize Ubuntu and thus how they're betraying free software. Very weird conspiracy theory!

Back to topic, the reason we've decided to support Ubuntu is because we couldn't afford not to :-) At the very beginning we decided to support a single OS because we couldn't afford to support a second one simply due to the development and testing overhead, and at that time CentOS was the right choice. All along we've had users using Ubuntu with RightScale and we did our best to support them without spending a lot of official time on it. But six to nine months ago it became clear that demand for Ubuntu server was on the rise and that we'd better pay attention.

What finally pushed us over the edge is that the Ubuntu team and Canonical made it clear that they are supporting the cloud. They see the opportunity to be the OS of choice in the cloud and they are going at it. In addition they are supporting the Eucalyptus project and we have been supporting it as well, so that's another  common point. All that made it clear that it's in everyone's benefit for us to roll up our sleeves and unleash Ubuntu on RightScale. 

It's weird how the article quoted above sees Canonical's support of EC2 as betraying open source. I, of course, hope that Canonical will indeed monetize its cloud efforts by offering paid support services in the cloud environment. I want the company to stay around to continue supporting the Ubuntu project! But I see a cloud support offering as being no different than offering paid support services in the data center environment, which it does today. Does anyone complain that Canonical offers support on Dell servers because the servers are not free? What's different in the cloud? We pay Amazon to "lease" the servers and run them to boot. How different is that with respect to Ubuntu or Canonical?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to many Ubuntu users on the RightScale service, whether free or paid, and we'll keep increasing our Ubuntu offering!

NB: One of the things we're doing somewhat behind the scenes is running redundant mirrors of the Ubuntu repos within EC2, so if you're launching hundreds of servers and doing apt-gets then those will all go at lightning speed and succeed. In addition, we're keeping daily versions of the mirrors, so next year you'll still be able to apt-get with the state of the mirrors of today to guarantee a successful launch and install.


Ubuntu is the most overrated distro ever put out. It’s not nearly as good as its fanbois portray it to be — certainly not moreso than many other distros. Its “success” is all the result hype and fanboi “marketing”.
Correction, Ubuntu has been leaking unofficial 1.5 codebase for months in tarballs associated with its packages. So while Rich may have wanted to keep the code private, by giving Canonical preferential access it was made publicly available as a tarball the moment Canonical pushed a binary package into Ubuntu over a month ago. That is just one of the problems with preferential access. I've talked to Rich, trying to make sure it was okay from his POV to take the tarballs that Canonical leaked and use them to build competing packages. The development tree is open now for other packaging work and contributors. I have no reason to doubt Rich's sincerity that he didn't see it as a competitive advantage. But clearly it was. You described it as such in your blog post. And that's another problem. Preferential access to a for-profit is a competitive advantage...it doesn't matter if it was intended or not... it is what it is. And that sort of preferential treatment is not good for the larger open ecosystem. It would not be good for the kernel, its not be good for X, its not be good for GNOME or KDE, and its not going to be good for cloud technologies either. Preferential access is the wrong cultural norm to develop and nurture. And luckily for Canonical, the Debian community probably agrees with me. Oh and since you brought it up, what is Canonical doing for the cloud exactly? They don't hack on Eucalyptus, and they certainly aren't major contributors on the underlying components that Eucalyptus makes us of like libvirt or the open java stack. What exactly is Canonical doing in terms of open development work to build cloud oriented technologies? It's not like they were the trailblazers on ec2. I'm sure the no cost acquisition model they push for Ubuntu is very attractive, especially for start up businesses like your company or TurnKey or CohesiveFT who are taking Ubuntu and molding it into useful server appliance as a for-profit service model. But other than giving your business a blank canvas to work with, what are they doing to develop open cloud technologies? If there is money in servicing the cloud by providing virtual appliance services based on Ubuntu, I would imagine Canonical is going to want a piece of the action for itself. In fact Canonical needs a piece of the action or they won't be able to sustain manpower behind the effort. Is your company a Canonical services customer? Do you pay for landscape services or have you purchased ongoing support contracts from Canonical? What about your customers? Do they get Canonical support services as part of your Ubuntu platform offering? The most high profile instances of Ubuntu deployments I can find in the press involve Canonical gifting support services. Have they done that for you as well? Gifted support services to help you get Ubuntu integrated into your platform offering? -jef
Posted by Jef Spaleta (not verified)   Ι   March 24, 2009   Ι   08:36 AM
Jef, interesting points. You obviously have a redhat vs. canonical thing going on and I'm actually not that interested in fueling the fire. We work happily with both parties, just that lately canonical has been more active in the cloud space and, imho, "gets it" better. Couple of notes: Eucalyptus is no longer just an academic project. Whether Canonical is helping with direct funding or not, I don't know for sure, but they are certainly helping a lot in other ways. Best I can tell, Rich is keeping the source code closed until it's ready for release to protect his developers and his sanity, not to give someone a competitive advantage. And I know of other commercial entities who have gotten early access. You seem to think that working on an open source public funded project means that anyone should be able to see what you just did at any point in time. That makes no sense (sorry). Thanks for your thoughts nevertheless! Thorsten
Correction, Eucalyptus is an academic project which is sustained by public funding from the NSF. Canonical received preferential access to kvm enabled version of the 1.5 Eucalyptus codebase several months before the Eucalyptus project was prepared to release it to the public. It's quite difficult to say that Canonical is materially supporting Eucalyptus, when its development is being done on the United States tax payer's dime. If Eucalyptus had released its kvm enabled code publicly to everyone, then Debian and rpath and other integrators would have had fair and equitable access to compete with Canonical to bring Eucalyptus implementations to market. But that's not what happened. Canonical recieved unfair competitive advantage to a codebase it did not pay for. The public paid for it, and Canonical reaps a competitive advantage in the market by having access to that codebase several months before anyone else did. By winning preferential code access, to publicly funded code, Canonical obtained a competitive advantage in the market. Is that the sort of anti-competitive behavior you want to encourage in the software ecosystem? As a small company, does Rightside benefit from a pervasive culture where software companies feel its appropriate to gain preferential access to publicly funded works in order to get an advantage to market? As a small business will you be able to compete against larger companies who engage in this sort of behavior in order to gain access to new publicly funded technologies before you can? -jef
Posted by Jef Spaleta (not verified)   Ι   March 23, 2009   Ι   09:32 AM
I applaud RightScale for stepping up and giving customers a choice in which distro they want to use. I've been using (non-supported) Ubuntu images on RightScale since day one and it's nice to see all the RightScale scripts that are now available for Ubuntu images... to say nothing of the images themselves. Keep chugging along!
Posted by Jayme (not verified)   Ι   March 20, 2009   Ι   11:43 AM
Jayme: thanks for the positive feedback!
Interesting because I just installed your Ubuntu AMI! Thanks Rightscale. I am migrating over from centos to ubuntu server mainly because ubuntu server has a more recent kernel version. For me, speed is everything and usually speed improvements are found in newer kernels. Centos and ubuntu server are basically the same, instead of using rpm, you use apt-get. Instead of /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg*, it's /etc/network/interfaces, etc. Ubuntu offers up a competing linux distribution that people may find interesting, I don't see anything wrong with that. Perhaps this will nudge redhat to update their kernel or perhaps they aren't interested in that thus ubuntu server would be for people like me who want a newer kernel version. I'm not sure, but more choice is a good thing.
Posted by Brett (not verified)   Ι   March 18, 2009   Ι   03:20 PM
Brett, thanks for the comment! If you encounter any issues, please let our support folks know so we can fix 'em!

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