Details of the next release of Ubuntu, the popular Linux distribution, started to emerge last week in a newsletter article from Mark Shuttleworth, the Ubuntu founder. Like many contemporary developments in the software industry there is a strong cloud flavour to the forthcoming release, codenamed Karmic Koala. However, the focus on the user experience also continues. Taken together these trends will help to sustain Ubuntu as a competitive Linux distribution but will also continue to expand choice in the operating system market.
The cloudy Koala server isnt alone
The announcement of the integration of two different cloud facilities into a mainstream Linux distribution can only reinforce the cloud as the major IT industry trend of 2009. This reinforces the developments that the cloud players such as Salesforce.com have made, and the increasing number of cloud announcements from the traditional majors like HP, IBM and Microsoft. Vendors that dont have an effective cloud strategy are looking increasingly quaint and antiquated.
The first element of the cloud that Karmic Koala offers is integration with the Amazon EC2 service. Here, Ubuntu will offer a series of AMI images that will allow Ubuntu to be used easily on Amazon EC2. Theyll also offer a utility to create custom AMI images. The second cloud facility that will be offered by Karmic Koala is the Eucalyptus project. Eucalyptus a project driven by the University of California, Santa Barbara is an open-source software infrastructure for implementing cloud computing on clusters. Eucalyptus offers a similar API to the Amazon EC2 cloud but the computing provision is from clusters of workstations rather than the commercial service. In essence, it will allow free cloud or private cloud services to be developed that are broadly compatible with one of the leading cloud services.
The early incarnations of cloud, software-as-a-service or ASP (the historic precursor to the more modern labels) were focused on their services being isolated, being acquired by line-of-business buyers independently from their IT departments. While this was sensible for a new technology that was trying to break the mould, the newer trend is for cloud and on-premise technology to work together as an integrated or blended architecture.
Desktop Koala focuses on usability
Ubuntu will have at least two moves towards an improved user experience in Karmic Koala. First is to reduce boot time to less than 25 seconds. The 25 second goal is part of the design objectives for Jaunty, the precursor release, and Karmic Koala will aim to improve on this. The objective is particularly relevant for the netbook market, where the reduced boot time is needed to support the different use cases that netbooks are used for, compared to traditional laptops. Second is to improve the general look-and-feel of the product. As Shuttleworth put it: The desktop will have a designers fingerprints all over it were now beginning the serious push to a new look. Its also likely that Karmic Koala will see new usability features, such as new login screens. Ubuntu is already one of the Linux distributions that focuses strongly on usability and the Karmic Koala release will only increase its leadership position in this aspect of the Linux market.
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