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Clouds in the Forecast, Too Few Teapots, Much Ado About Ubuntu One

Clouds in the Forecast, Too Few Teapots, Much Ado About Ubuntu One

Is there room in the cloud for Linux? Canonical isn't wasting any time finding out. The Ubuntu support company has launched a sync service, Ubuntu One, that has caught the interest of the Linux blogging community. Is it much ado about nothing really new? Is Canonical simply going where the easy money is?

By Katherine Noyes
05/21/09 4:00 AM PT

The launch of Ubuntu One into beta not long ago has sparked a virtual tempest of debate about clouds -- cloud computing, that is, and where Linux fits into it all.

Ubuntu has already figured prominently in the news of late, both for Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth's recent assertion that Linux doesn't need Wine -- causing a small gale of controversy in and of itself -- and for the even more shocking news that emerged shortly thereafter indicating that the Ubuntu logo had been stolen!

Bloggers around the world were clearly scandalized by *that* little tidbit, you can bet; then someone apparently bothered to check online whether the logo had been officially claimed by either party. Answer, according to LXer's MrLinux: It had not, "and this means that both are allowed to use it."

"So ... another tempest in a teapot," observed caitlyn. "Just what we needed ..."

"I think we're running out of available teapots ..." added techiem2.

"This is FOSS, we simply reuse the old one," countered jdixon.

'Looks Like an Interesting Service'

Anyhoo, back to the matter at hand, which of course is Ubuntu One. The cloud synchronization service is apparently much like Dropbox, but with additional features. Currently available by invitation only, it's reportedly expected to be ready for a full launch around the time Karmic Koala debuts in October. Users of a free version will get 2 GB of storage for free; 10 GB will cost US$10 per month.

Bloggers on Ars Technica, the Linux Loop, SearchEnterpriseLinux, Linux Magazine and LinuxHaxor -- not to mention Digg, one, two, three and four times -- all stopped to pause and consider the news, to the tune of many, many comments.

"There are two things that make this service interesting," wrote Thomas Teisberg over at the Linux Loop, for example. "First, the fact that it will be so tightly integrated with Ubuntu. This means that is has the potential to create a better user experience than any other synchronization service.

"Second, Canonical is apparently thinking about working with application developers to let you sync your application preferences," he added. "We don't know much yet, but Ubuntu One certainly looks like an interesting service, and it might give Canonical some money."

Cloud-o-Rama

As noted by TechTarget's Pam Derringer, the launch also comes hard on the heels of the release of the Linux Foundation's recent report on cloud computing, the Distributed Management Task Force's (DMTF's) formation of a collaborative Open Cloud Standards Incubator and Red Hat's announcement of the virtual Open Source Cloud Computing Forum scheduled for July.

Excuse us if we pause for a moment -- with so many clouds around, the air in here is getting thin!

What will it all mean? What kind of role will Linux play? Once again, your trusty LinuxInsider reporter donned her cape (the one emblazoned with a giant "L") and took to the streets of the blogosphere for some firsthand opinions.

'The Past, Present and Future'

"Ubuntu One seems like Ubuntu trying to play catch-up with Apple's .mac," Slashdot blogger drinkypoo told LinuxInsider in an email. "It's not a bad idea, although the privacy implications are significant. Then again, people (including myself) have demonstrated a willingness to hand reams of data to Google, so what's the big deal about Ubuntu?"

As for Linux and the cloud, "as has been pointed out repeatedly, it's the past, present, and probably the future," drinkypoo asserted. "The lack of licensing fees alone will be enough to guarantee steady interest, and it runs on a ton of different architectures, making it possible to operate the cloud on disparate hardware without substantially increasing management costs."

'Wonderful on Servers'

Cloud computing needs a good networked OS, blogger Robert Pogson contended. "GNU/Linux is as good as any and better than that other OS, for sure."

Pogson recently started a project "using authentication from the other OS in GNU/Linux," he told LinuxInsider by email, and saw "long pauses in authentication because that other OS has so many other priorities than giving service to users.

"Ubuntu or any other distro can make up good pieces of the cloud," he added. "I use Debian, which is wonderful on servers because one guy can tweak many servers at once using scripting. The APT packaging system is great for clusters."

'Where the Easy Money Is'

Indeed, "unlike Windows and Apple, which are desktop OSes, Linux is primarily a server OS," Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told LinuxInsider. "This is why even Canonical, whose big claim to fame was a desktop distro, is getting into the server area with Ubuntu Server and Ubuntu One. Why? Because that is where the easy money is at and that is where the development dollars are being spent."

It's also for that reason that support for enterprise-level hardware in Linux is "so much better" than for consumer hardware, hairyfeet added.

"This is why changes in the kernel that would benefit desktop users are rejected if they would affect enterprise server performance," he explained. "In Linux, servers have always been the focus, and support for the desktop has always been an afterthought."

At least one blogger felt the excitement was much ado about nothing new.

"'Cloud' is just another name for 'server-based app,'" Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider by email, "and Linux has been doing a good job of that for a while now."


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