What’s new in Ubuntu 14.10 for cloud and servers?

Canonical

on 23 October 2014

Today we release Ubuntu 14.10, aka ‘Utopic Unicorn’, for cloud and servers. As always, we recommend that enterprise customers stay on the latest LTS release, in this case 14.04. However, this release is packed full of new features for Ubuntu Server, OpenStack, as well as our cloud tools Juju and MAAS.

Before going into specific features, I will start with the pièce de résistance: a true demonstration of the power of Juju. A beta version of some of the most complex workloads, deployed in minutes via Juju. In this cycle, we introduce Cloud Foundry, as well as a number of big data solutions including ElasticSearch, and several Hadoop solutions, including Hive, data analytics using SQL-like or Pig Latin, and real-time analytics using Storm. You will hear us talk a lot about these in the coming weeks and months, as we seek to include more and more workloads into Juju. Our Charm Partner Programme is well underway and we expect to see the first fruits of it in the very near future, creating a large and strong ecosystem around Juju. Make sure to visit our booth at the OpenStack Summit in Paris to check out some of these solutions yourself.

Server and OpenStack

This release includes the Juno release of OpenStack, which will be supported on 14.10 for nine months, and on 14.04 for 18 months. Juno brings a number of valuable improvements, especially on the networking side with Neutron IPv6 support for tenant networks, and Neutron Distributed Virtual Router for optimised east-west traffic routing and highly available north-south routing. Check the Juno release notes for a full listing of features.

Much of this is reflected in Ubuntu, as we now have IPv6 support in the OpenStack charms, Juju and MAAS, and horizontally scalable neutron gateway for software-defined networking in OpenStack. Network Config support in the OpenStack charms separates traffic flows between OpenStack components into different networks, improving separation and reducing contention between traffic types, e.g. separating internal network traffic for databases or messaging from public network access for end users.

Cells are an interesting addition to Nova, and now the OpenStack charms support the scaling of a cloud using Nova Cells, allowing federation of database, messaging and compute resources within a single OpenStack cloud. vxlan brings a scalable and performant tenant overlay networking option, and layer 2 population brings network traffic optimisation for multicast and broadcast traffic flow. Without it, there is a very high overhead to find where an instance is in a cloud – you practically have to ping one instance from another one, a painfully slow process that this feature solves.

All of the above are new features that really strengthen Ubuntu’s position as the number one scale-out platform for server and cloud. In addition, this release contains the latest release of Docker, v1.2. Ubuntu has always been a leader in container technology, and we intend to continue on that track. 14.10 includes the latest LXC, the fastest, most secure bare-metal container to date, and Ubuntu now offers user-level container support. This allows any user to create system-wide container without the need for superuser privileges. This used to create lots of problems in terms of security and separation of privileges.

My personal favourite feature however, is bcache. As someone who often runs I/O intensive workloads, I often run into the eternal conundrum: how much SSD can I afford, and what’s the right balance between SSD and rotating disks to provide an acceptable compromise on speed while not breaking the bank? Bcache, a Linux kernel block layer cache, promises to solve this problem. It allows one or more fast disk drives such as SSD to act as a cache for a conventional disk. In other words, it brings the best of both worlds in terms of the ability to keep your old, rotating disks, but enhance them with the speed of SSD.

Kernel

While we’re on the kernel side, 14.10 includes the 3.16 kernel, and brings a whole host of striking new features that are worth spending some time on. In addition to a very significant number of bug fixes, we see new architecture support for POWER8 and ARM64 platforms. It also includes support for Intel Cherryview, Haswell, Broadwell, and Merrifield systems, and initial support for Nvidia GK20A and GK110B GPU’s. There is improved graphics performance on many Nvidia, Intel and ATI Radeon devices and also audio improvements with support for the Radeon .264 video encoder.  Expanded platform support is enabled via support for 64 bit EFI boot on 32 bit EFI BIOS. This release also brings performance improvements in suspend/resume times. For developers, we see significant improvements in tracing and debugging with new triggers for kernel trace points, and expansion of uprobe support. This release also brings a new experimental deadline CPU scheduler.

For servers we see better support for bursty workloads, improved resident set tracking, and a better NUMA migration strategy. File system support is also improved with faster file allocations for database use and several file systems show performance improvements including XFS and Btrfs. XFS now has stabilised its v5 format and sports expanded direct I/O support. Btrfs now supports per directory switchable compression modes. raid5 performance is also improved. This release also brings improvements to networking, including a new packet scheduler for high latency links, and efforts to bring IPv6 support in line with IPv4. We see performance improvements for Open vSwitch and VTI tunnelling.  As always, various new pieces of hardware are now supported including Intel AVX-512 and Intel MXP.

On cloud we see Hyper-V, XEN, and KVM networking performance improvements. Hyper-V now supports the hypervisor driven file copy and reference time services. For KVM we see improved support for passing through new x86 vector instructions. On the security front we see full Kernel Address Space Layout Randomisation applied to the kernel and its modules, plus the closure of a number of information leaks in /proc.  We also see additional support for cryptographic devices.

MAAS and Juju

Early beta versions of our leading cloud tools, Juju and MAAS, are included in this release, with more stable versions planned in a few weeks for both 14.10 and 14.04. MAAS takes bare-metal provisioning to a whole new level by introducing the ability to provision Windows Server/HyperV, CentOS, and OpenSUSE. Other notable features include per-node event logging and power monitoring, as well as secure disk wipe. Also, Region Controllers now download and store the images (from an image repository), allowing Clusters to sync from the MAAS Image Store. This allows for complete offline operation, a much requested feature by our customers and partners.

Juju brings an amazing set of new features, most notably the ability to orchestrate Windows workloads, making Juju a truly cross-platform service orchestration tool. We’ve also seen the architecture port to ARM64 and POWER8, as well as OSX and MAAS provider support for Juju-quickstart. We’ve already announced Machine View, the ability to control, view and manage which services get deployed to which physical machines from the Juju GUI. This has been a very popular feature since launch, and we will keep expanding on it in future releases.

Other improvements in Juju core include a massive speed increase to the bootstrap process, down to 25 seconds from a previous 40, and the automatic balancing of workloads across multiple availability zones per cloud deployment best practices. As mentioned above, Juju now provides automated high availability (HA) and backup/restore tooling built-in, another highly requested feature by customers.

So that’s 14.10 for you, but we’re nowhere near done for this year. Stay tuned for more surprises to come next week, and at the OpenStack Summit and beyond…

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