As we move from “tens” to “hundreds” to “thousands” of nodes in a typical data centre we need new tools and practices. This hyperscale story – of hyper-dense racks with wimpy nodes – is the big shift in the physical world which matches the equally big shift to cloud computing in the virtualised world. Ubuntu’s popularity in the cloud comes in part from being leaner, faster, more agile. And MAAS – Metal as a Service – is bringing that agility back to the physical world for hyperscale deployments.

Servers used to aspire to being expensive. Powerful. Big. We gave them names like “Hercules” or “Atlas”. The bigger your business, or the bigger your data problem, the bigger the servers you bought. It was all about being beefy – with brands designed to impress, like POWER and Itanium.

Things are changing.

Today, server capacity can be bought as a commodity, based on the total cost of compute: the cost per teraflop, factoring in space, time, electricity. We can get more power by adding more nodes to our clusters, rather than buying beefier nodes. We can increase reliability by doubling up, so services keep running when individual nodes fail. Much as RAID changed the storage game, this scale-out philosophy, pioneered by Google, is changing the server landscape.

In this hyperscale era, each individual node is cheap, wimpy and, by historical standards for critical computing, unreliable. But together, they’re unstoppable. The horsepower now resides in the cluster, not the node. Likewise, the reliability of the infrastructure now depends on redundancy, rather than heroic performances from specific machines. There is, as they say, safety in numbers.

We don’t even give hyperscale nodes proper names any more – ask “node-0025904ce794”. Of course, you can still go big with the cluster name. I’m considering “Mark’s Magnificent Mountain of Metal” – significantly more impressive than “Mark’s Noisy Collection of Fans in the Garage”, which is what Claire will probably call it. And that’s not the knicker-throwing kind of fan, either.

The catch to this massive multiplication in node density, however, is in the cost of provisioning. Hyperscale won’t work economically if every server has to be provisioned, configured  and managed as if it were a Hercules or an Atlas. To reap the benefits, we need leaner provisioning processes. We need deployment tools to match the scale of the new physical reality.

That’s where Metal as a Service (MAAS) comes in. MAAS makes it easy to set up the hardware on which to deploy any service that needs to scale up and down dynamically – a cloud being just one example. It lets you provision your servers dynamically, just like cloud instances – only in this case, they’re whole physical nodes. “Add another node to the Hadoop cluster, and make sure it has at least 16GB RAM” is as easy as asking for it.

With a simple web interface, you can  add, commission, update and recycle your servers at will.  As your needs change, you can respond rapidly, by adding new nodes and dynamically re-deploying them between services. When the time comes, nodes can be retired for use outside the MAAS.

As we enter an era in which ATOM is as important in the data centre as XEON, an operating system like Ubuntu makes even more sense. Its freedom from licensing restrictions, together with the labour saving power of tools like MAAS, make it cost-effective, finally, to deploy and manage hundreds of nodes at a time

Here’s another way to look at it: Ubuntu is bringing cloud semantics to the bare metal world. What a great foundation for your IAAS.

32 comments:

  1. Techie Talks says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Wow another service is here. Computing Services development is very fast.

  2. Manu Ullas says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Mark, would there be a bunch of nanobot-gnomes running about throwing servers about onto/off racks as we watch? What about the economics of the whole thing?

  3. Tristan Tarrant says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    When I first read the title I thought that Jono’s Severed Fifth was going to be featured in the offering :)

  4. David Overcash says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Manu asks a good question – the breakdown in my mind comes with the physical labor to provision, setup, and connect actual physical hardware. That’s the exact reason that I prefer to use Ubuntu in the cloud – I can generate cycles out of thin air and let others ( such as Rackspace or Amazon ) worry about plugging in and/or powering up more boxes. If we’re talking about a way to democratize access to those sorts of capabilities – then I’m certainly all ears! :)

  5. /V says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Given the title, I read this article with a completely different expectation.

    \m/ \m/

    Still, I wasn’t disappointed.

  6. Jef Spaleta says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    I’m confused.

    I thought MAAS referred to “management as a service”. I’ve been seeing that used for a couple of years now by multiple organizations selling the concept.

    Without commenting on the technology you are talking about here reusing the acryonym for something new might cause some confusion in your target customerbase. Try to de-emphasize the acryonym and sell the “metal” as a short hand moniker.

    http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/maas-confusion

  7. Chauncellor says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Funny thing is this technology has been around for a decade, like most “new” *AAS marketing gimmicks.

  8. Canonical Metal As A Service (MAAS) Tool To Launch With Ubuntu 12.04 Beta 2 - CrazyEngineers says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    [...] shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and Ubutnu, said in a blog post that MaaS aims to bring the Ubuntu’s popularity in cloud field to physical world. As the world of [...]

  9. Chauncellor says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Hi,

    Can I even compare MASS in my own servers with a landscape setup?

  10. Mal Haak says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    I have no idea what your on about. MAAS? Metal as a service? WUT? HaaS already exists. If your talking about some kind of cluster roll out and management thing then your years too late. Amazon and such have been doing compute in the cloud with all kinds of on-deman/dynamic sizing stuff for ages.

    Moreov, Pxe-boot, IPMI plus some scripts and BAM, automated provisioning. Heck team it up with something like Zabbix and you could even have it dynamically re-assign nodes on the fly.

    Dunno what your selling but I’m pretty sure I already have it, Twice.

  11. Shuttleworth defends Ubuntu's Linux contributions | ZDNet says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    [...] of Ubuntu, and we don’t lead kernel development as a particular goal. We lead with Unity, with MAAS [Metal as a Service], with Juju [Ubuntu's service management tool] and with other tools that make Linux a fantastic [...]

  12. Surendhar says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 5:04 am

    Wow, now thats the feature I searched madly on the Internet past 6 months! Great.

  13. Sampsa says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I know this is off topic, but speaking of ‘metal as a service’, have you considered expanding current music store to a subscription based limitless streaming service? Right now many people are dissatisfied on how many streaming music services force facebook integrations on them so now would be a good time to add this killer feature to rhythmbox.

  14. Kicking the tires on MAAS - Jorge's Stompbox says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    [...] to test MAAS by itself.). If you don’t know what MAAS is then you can check out Mark’s blog post about it. It’s a new provisioning tool that lets you quickly deploy [...]

  15. Марк Шаттлворт анонсировал MAAS, инструментарий для быстрого развертывания конфигураций Ubuntu | Linux News | Новости по открытому ПО, Linux, BSD и Unix сис says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    [...] Шаттлворт (Mark Shuttleworth) анонсировал в своем блоге новый инструментарий MAAS (Metal-as-a-Service), [...]

  16. Марк Шаттлворт анонсировал MAAS, инструментарий для быстрого развертывания конфигураций Ubuntu | AllUNIX.ru — Всероссийский портал о UNIX-сис says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    [...] Шаттлворт (Mark Shuttleworth) анонсировал в своем блоге новый инструментарий MAAS (Metal-as-a-Service), [...]

  17. Ubuntu Founder Pitches New Tool for Server Provisioning | Tux Doc says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    [...] Ubuntu Founder Pitches New Tool for Server Provisioning   By Tux | April 5, 2012 – 3:48 pm | Tech Stuff document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src=%27http://s10.histats.com/js15.js%27 type=%27text/javascript%27%3E%3C/script%3E")); try {Histats.start(1,1591082,4,0,0,0,""); Histats.track_hits();} catch(err){}; Ubuntu developer Canonical is working on a new provisioning platform called Metal as a Service (MAAS), which will be used to activate new servers, on top of which a cloud can be deployed, founder Mark Shuttleworth said in a blog post on Wednesday. [...]

  18. Today’s Links April 5, 2012 says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    [...] more details about MAAS, you can refer to Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth’s blog post about the new project. The source code is available from Canonical’s Launchpad project [...]

  19. Ubuntu Founder Pitches New Tool for Server Provisioning | Geeklin says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    [...] Ubuntu developer Canonical is working on a new provisioning platform called Metal as a Service (MAAS), which will be used to activate new servers, on top of which a cloud can be deployed, founder Mark Shuttleworth said in a blog post on Wednesday. [...]

  20. Новости компьютерного мира - Марк Шаттлворт анонсировал MAAS, инструментарий для быстрого развертывания конфигураций Ubuntu says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    [...] Шаттлворт (Mark Shuttleworth) анонсировал в своем блоге новый инструментарий MAAS (Metal-as-a-Service), [...]

  21. Марк Шаттлворт анонсировал MAAS, инструментарий для быстрого развертывания конфигураций Ubuntu : Записки начинающего линуксоида says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    [...] Шаттлворт (Mark Shuttleworth) анонсировал в своем блоге новый инструментарий MAAS (Metal-as-a-Service), [...]

  22. Ubuntu founder pitches new tool for server provisioning : Cloud Komputing says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    [...] Ubuntu developer Canonical is working on a new provisioning platform called Metal as a Service (MaaS), which will be used to activate new servers, on top of which a cloud can be deployed, founder Mark Shuttleworth said in a blog post on Wednesday. [...]

  23. Ubuntu founder pitches new tool for server provisioning « system-ON-key says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    [...] IDG News Service – Ubuntu developer Canonical is working on a new provisioning platform called Metal as a Service (MAAS), which will be used to activate new servers, on top of which a cloud can be deployed, founder Mark Shuttleworth said in a blog post Wednesday. [...]

  24. Ubuntu founder pitches new tool for server provisioning « system-ON-key says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    [...] IDG News Service – Ubuntu developer Canonical is working on a new provisioning platform called Metal as a Service (MAAS), which will be used to activate new servers, on top of which a cloud can be deployed, founder Mark Shuttleworth said in a blog post Wednesday. [...]

  25. Links 5/4/2012: Early Look at GNOME 3.4, Mageia 2 Postponed | Techrights says: (permalink)
    April 5th, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    [...] Introducing Metal as a Service: provisioning for the hyperscale era As we move from “tens” to “hundreds” to “thousands” of nodes in a typical data centre we need new tools and practices. This hyperscale story – of hyper-dense racks with wimpy nodes – is the big shift in the physical world which matches the equally big shift to cloud computing in the virtualised world. Ubuntu’s popularity in the cloud comes in part from being leaner, faster, more agile. And MAAS – Metal as a Service – is bringing that agility back to the physical world for hyperscale deployments. [...]

  26. Ubuntu founder pitches new tool for server provisioning | says: (permalink)
    April 6th, 2012 at 10:39 am

    [...] Ubuntu developer Canonical is working on a new provisioning platform called Metal as a Service (MaaS), which will be used to activate new servers, on top of which a cloud can be deployed, founder Mark Shuttleworth said in a blog post on Wednesday. [...]

  27. Canonical Unveils Metal-as-a-Service Server Provisioning Tool « Breaking News « Theory Report says: (permalink)
    April 6th, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    [...] a blog post, owner Mark Shuttleworth pronounced that MAAS is set to move lively behind to hyper-scale [...]

  28. A saga do kernel Ubuntu « Ubuntu-BR-SC says: (permalink)
    April 6th, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    [...] fundador do Ubuntu, o objetivo não é liderar o desenvolvimento do kernel, mas sim do Unity, do Metal as a Service, do Juju e de outras ferramentas que fazem do Linux um ambiente fantástico tanto para usuários [...]

  29. celso says: (permalink)
    April 6th, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    mark, look at this concept. quite interesting! maybe a new idea for ubuntu? maybe you can take some tips from here? i read it and actualy liked it…
    http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2012/04/why-tabs-must-die/

  30. Canonical Metal-as-a-Service: Not Quite As Cool As It Sounds | Install Ubuntu says: (permalink)
    April 7th, 2012 at 8:50 am

    [...] founder Mark Shuttleworth blogged about MaaS today. He paints a very interesting picture. To me, though, MaaS feels like a solution looking for [...]

  31. Ubuntu 12.04 krijgt provisioning-tool Metal as a Service | Techcube says: (permalink)
    April 7th, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    [...] beschikbaar onder de Affero General Public License. Ubuntu-voorman Mark Shuttleworth laat op zijn blog weten dat MaaS onder andere nuttig kan zijn voor de installatie van software op servers die draaien [...]

  32. Ubuntu founder pitches new tool for server provisioning - HackerMuslim.com | HackerMuslim.com says: (permalink)
    April 7th, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    [...] Ubuntu developer Canonical is operative on a new provisioning height called Metal as a Service (MaaS), that will be used to activate new servers, on tip of that a cloud can be deployed, owner Mark Shuttleworth said in a blog post on Wednesday. [...]