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Ubuntu looks up at cloud and AI with 18.04

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Summary: Canonical has announced Ubuntu 18.04 that focuses on cloud-centric workloads, along with new capabilities to support machine learning and AI frameworks.

The arrival of Ubuntu 18.04 marks a milestone in the history of Canonical, the company behind one of the most popular operating system on the public cloud. With this release Canonical is moving away from consumer space and looking at emerging technologies that are powering the ongoing fourth industrial revolution.

Thanks to its business model and mindshare on the desktop, Ubuntu is the most popular Linux based distribution on the public cloud. Almost all public cloud, including AWS, Azure, GCP (Google Cloud Platform), IBM, Oracle, and others are Ubuntu workloads, said Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical and founder of Ubuntu.

“In each cloud we do detailed work with that cloud engineering team, specifically around network and storage, to accelerate the performance of those functions,” said Shuttleworth. “We have also done a great deal of work in 18.04 on boot time optimization because we’re seeing people really get deep into the use of clouds as a bursty accelerated response. And as a mechanism for agility, being able to boot much faster on a cloud means that you can ramp much faster when you have demand coming to your services.”

In addition to boot time optimization, 18.04 also brings in hardware acceleration, especially through the availability of GPGPU that has been a complex web of work for Canonical, Nvidia and all of the major public cloud infrastructures.

But Ubuntu 18.04 goes beyond performance optimization and performance improvements, it’s also looking at machine learning and artificial intelligence. Kubeflow, the Google approach to TensorFlow on Kubernetes, and a range of CI/CD tools are integrated into Canonical Kubernetes and aligned with Google GKE for on-premise and on-cloud AI development.

“Having an OS that is tuned for advanced workloads such as AI and ML is critical to a high-velocity team” said David Aronchick, Product Manager, Cloud AI at Google. “With the release of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and Canonical’s collaborations to the Kubeflow project, Canonical has provided both a familiar and highly performant operating system that works everywhere. Whether on-premise or in the cloud, software engineers and data scientists can use tools they are already familiar with, such as Ubuntu, Kubernetes, and Kubeflow, and greatly accelerate their ability to deliver value for their customers.”

What about serverless?
Since we are talking about emerging technologies, it’s fair to examine Canonical’s plans for serverless computing or function as a service. Responding to my question, Shuttleworth said that users are bringing their solutions to the Canonical distribution of Kubernetes, and few of those are service oriented such as Galactic Fog as Serverless implementation on Kubernetes.

“But we have not seen significant enterprise traction for the serverless framework on top of Kubernetes or o top of bare metal infrastructure,” he said, “We do see customers developing serverless applications on the major public clouds, we don’t yet see them trying to bring that serverless code into their infrastructure. We see some startups effectively working on the serverless framework for Kubernetes, but we don’t see much in the way of penetration for those.”

Shuttleworth also talked about the risk of vendor lock-in with existing serverless landscape which is tied to the public cloud providers. As serverless technologies mature and gain traction, Ubuntu might help customers break that vendor lock-in.