Ubuntu expands into virtual appliances

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Ubuntu expands into virtual appliances

Canonical has released a special version of its Ubuntu Server Linux distribution that is tailored to run as part of a virtual appliance.

Dubbed Ubuntu JeOS (Just Enough Operating System), the software has been stripped from drivers and utilities that are bundled with the regular Ubuntu Server distribution.

There is no need for hardware drivers in a virtual system, and utilities are typically available in a server's main operating system.

If an application requires a specific component, Ubuntu can quickly add that from one of the Ubuntu Server packages, Canonical chief executive Mark Shuttleworth told www.vnunet.com.

"We can scale up the image. We have a minimal core. We can extend that to support even GUI applications. All that is done with the same packages that people already know from Ubuntu Server."

The Ubuntu JeOS (pronounced 'juice') kernel has been optimised to run on VMware. Other virtualisation platforms may be added based on customer demand, Shuttleworth said.

A virtual appliance bundles an application with an operating system that users can load directly into their virtual machine monitor. This liberates them from the need to manually install and configure the operating system and application.

The operating system can be tailored towards the targeted application, allowing for a reduction in the software's overall size. This reduces the number of potential bugs, thereby increasing a system's stability and security.

Ubuntu is not the first to enter the appliance space. A company called rPath specialises in creating custom Linux distributions optimised to run the targeted application.

Red Hat also offers a virtual appliance, but is using its full operating system rather than a tailored version.

Similarly to rPath, Ubuntu allows software developers to certify and package their application with Ubuntu JeOS. The most expensive offering costs about US$35,000 per packaged application. All Ubuntu JeOS users receive free updates.

Ubuntu furthermore will list virtual appliances and link to downloads for free applications.

The listing function is reminiscent of the Red Hat Exchange service. Red Hat's online store, however, lists open source applications that Red Hat deems trustworthy and sufficiently stable in an effort to help users find enterprise grade open source software.

Canonical will not provide such a fretting process. The firm will also list both open source and proprietary applications.
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