Precision Planning; Prepping for 12.04 LTS

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

In just over a week, quite a large cross-section of the Ubuntu community and representatives from many free software projects and companies will gather in Orlando to map out the Precise Pangolin. Now’s the time to prepare for the event, with 11.10 out (well done everybody!) and the key infrastructure slotting into place.

Figuring out the optimal balance of goals is the work of the summit, but we can lay out some over-arching themes that have been in progress during this meta-cycle and come to their full fruition in the LTS release. We can also remind ourselves of the ways in which an LTS is different, and the impact that will have on our choices in Orlando.

Being an LTS

As Dustin pointed out, this is the fourth Ubuntu LTS release, and as such it needs to carry on, and entrench, the reputation of the LTS as a carrier-grade platform for mission-critical server deployments and large scale desktop deployments. That means:

  • Adjusting the cycle to allocate more time for resolving issues
  • Introducing minimal new infrastructure or platform-visible change
  • Goal-driven and continuously benchmarked programs of action around performance
  • First-class accessibility for those with special interaction needs
  • Enablement and certification of the sorts of hardware people will deploy at scale and in the datacenter
Rick Spencer and his team have put some thought into one of the critical challenges that LTS releases face, which is the need to support newer hardware over a longer period of time. Traditionally, Linux distributions have tried to prioritize items to backport, but that puts the stability of known-good configurations very much at risk. Rick will outline the strategy we’ll adopt for this at UDS, which I think makes the most out of the work done for every release of Ubuntu.

Carrier-grade Cloud Infrastructure and Guest

Ubuntu is the #1 OS for cloud computing, whether you measure it by the number of instances running on all the major public clouds, the number of Ubuntu-based cloud appliances, the number of public and private clouds running on Ubuntu host OS. The extraordinary diversity of the Ubuntu community, the calibre of collaboration between Ubuntu and OpenStack, and the focused efforts of Canonical to make Ubuntu useful in the cloud have all contributed to that position. In 12.04 LTS we must deliver:

  • world’s best cloud infrastructure powered by OpenStack’s corresponding major release
  • perfect support for cloud-oriented hardware from Canonical’s partner IHV’s
  • a great hybrid-cloud story, for those using a mixture of private and public clouds
  • world’s best guest OS on AWS, Rackspace and other public cloud infrastructures
A key focus is making it easy to bootstrap and manage services across public, private and hybrid clouds, and Juju charms are the magic by which we’re flattening all those cloud substrates and bringing devops practices into the Ubuntu administrator toolbox. Those who attended the recent OpenStack Summit will have caught the buzz around Juju, which brings APT-like semantics to cloud service deployments. There’s a rapidly growing collection of Juju charms which define common services and allow you to get started immediately on all the major public and private cloud infrastructures; I keep hearing how clean and easy it is to charm a new piece of software for cloud deployment so I’m sure both the number of charms and charmers will grow exponentially.
Right now Juju charms can be deployed on bare-metal farms of hardware with no virtualisation, such as Hadoop or Condor compute clusters, Amazon’s public cloud infrastructure, Ubuntu’s OpenStack-based cloud infrastructure, and on the developer workstation using LXC containers so developers can use charms locally which are then re-used by administrators deploying to the cloud. I think there are Juju contributors working on support for a few other cloud infrastructures too, it will be interesting to see what lands by 12.04.

Pangolin-worthy Server Release

We have a proud heritage from Debian which 12.04 LTS needs to celebrate and maintain; although we have some key advantages for enterprises deploying Ubuntu over Debian in our ability to enable some additional security features in the Linux kernel and toolchain, as well as support, certification and assurance, the lean-mean-green-machine nature of the Ubuntu Server experience owes much to Debian’s focus on quality and precision.

12.04 will be the first LTS to support the ARM architecture on selected ARM SoC parts. In a world where computational density is increasingly prioritized over single-thread performance, the entry of ARM to the server market is a very interesting shift. Ubuntu has established a very strong competence in ARM and I think the 12.04 LTS release will power a new generation of power-focused hardware for the data centre.

Pixel-perfect desktop

The nail-biting transitions to Unity and Gnome 3 are behind us, so this cycle is an opportunity to put perfection front and center. We have a gorgeous typeface that was designed for readability, which is now available in Light and Medium as well as Regular and Bold, and has a Mono variant as well. That’s an opportunity to work through the whole desktop interface and make sure we’re using exactly the right weight in each place, bringing the work we’ve been doing for several cycles fully into focus.

We also need to do justice to the fact that 12.04 LTS will be the preferred desktop for many of the world’s biggest Linux desktop deployments, in some cases exceeding half a million desktops in a single institution. So 12.04 is also an opportunity to ensure that our desktop is manageable at scale, that it can be locked down in the ways institutions need, and that it can be upgraded from 10.04 LTS smoothly as promised. Support for multiple monitors will improve, since that’s a common workplace requirement.

During UDS we’ll build out the list of areas for refinement, polish and ‘precisioneering’, but the theme for all of this work is one of continuous improvement; no new major infrastructure, no work on pieces which are not design-complete at the conclusion of the summit.

While there are some remaining areas we’d like to tweak the user experience, they will probably be put on hold so we can focus on polish, performance and predictability. I’d like to improve the user experience around Workspaces for power users, and we’ll publish our design work for that, but I think it would be wisest for us to defer that unless we get an early and effective contribution of that code.

It’s going to be a blast in Orlando, as UDS always manages to bring together a fantastic crowd. And it’s going to be a beautiful, memorable release of Ubuntu in April 2012!

P is for…

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

It’s a perennial pleasure to pick pertinent and/or pithy placeholder names for Ubuntu releases. At least, I like to think of them as pertinent and/or pithy. I’ve had diverse feedback, shall we say. Nevertheless, it’s now a tradition, and it’s a pressing priority as we approach the release of Oneiric.

So, what will be our mascot for 12.04 LTS?

The letter P is pretty perfect. It’s also plentiful – my inbox has been rather full of suggestions – and we have options ranging from pacific to purposeful, via puckish and prudent. We’ll steer clear of the posh and the poncey, much as some would revel in the Portentious Palomino or the Principled Paca, those aren’t the winning names. Having spent the last six months elucidating the meaning of “oneiric” I think it might also be worth skipping the parenthetical or paralogical options too; so sadly I had to exclude the Perspicacious Panda and Porangi Packhorse (though being an LTS, that Packhorse was a near thing).

Being generally of a cheerful nature, I thought we’d avoid the Predatory Panther and Primeval Possum. Neither sounds like great company for a seven year journey, really. Same goes for the Peccable Peccary, Pawky Python and Perfidious Puku. So many bullets to dodge round here!

We’re looking for something phonetic, something plausible and something peaceful too. We’ll avoid the petulant, the pestilent, the phlegmy (phooey!), the parochial, the palliative and the psychotic. We’re aiming for mildly prophetic, and somewhat potent, without wanting to be all pedantic and particular. Phew.

So, what might work?

There are lots of lovely candidates. I have a fondness for phat. The Phat Platypus has a can-do kind of ring to it, but I don’t think it’ll fly.

I also like punchy and perky (the Perky Penguin is a nice nostalgic option) and persistent (better than permanent, peerless or penultimate) and playful and plucky and poised. Others like prescient and peaceable and pervasive (!) and pivotal. Pukka rings a nice old-world bell, but it’s possibly pejorative.

As you can see, it’s been something of a challenge to get this right.

Let’s ask the question differently – what are we trying to convey? 12.04 is an LTS. So we want it to be tough and long-lasting, reliable, solid as a rock and well defended. It’s also going to be the face of Ubuntu for large deployments for a long time, so we want it to have no loose ends, we want it to be coherent, neat.

We’ve told the story of the cloud in previous releases, and that comes to fruition in 12.04 with the first LTS that supports both the cloud guest, and cloud infrastructure, across ARM and x86 architectures. We’ve also told the story of Unity in previous releases, and that comes to fruition in a fast, lean interface that works well across clients both thick and thin. 12.04 is going to be a lot more than all that, but for the full reveal, you’ll need to wait till UDS! Nevertheless, we can take reliability, precision, and polish as a given.

Balancing all of those options, I think we have just the right mix in our designated mascot for 12.04 LTS. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Precise Pangolin.

Now, I’ve recently spent a few hours tracking a pangolin through the Kalahari. I can vouch for their precision – there wasn’t an ant hill in the valley that he missed. Their scales are a wonder of detail and quite the fashion statement. I can also vouch for their toughness; pangolin’s regularly survive encounters with lions. All in all, a perfect fit. There’s no sassier character, and no more cheerful digger, anywhere in those desert plains. If you want a plucky partner, the pangolin’s your match. Let’s pack light for a wonderful adventure together. See you in Orlando!