Canonical lines up more partnerships -- positive Juju abounds

Naming a product after West African witchcraft isn't the normal course of events in the technology industry. But then again, Canonical is far from normal.

Canonical is best known for two things. Firstly, the wildly popular Ubuntu open source operating system that is one of the leading OSs for a bunch of different use cases -- desktop, data center, cloud and increasingly the Internet of Things. The second thing Canonical is known for is its founder, Mark Shuttleworth.

Shuttleworth is a legendary figure, the person who amassed a not insignificant fortune, by selling his first company, Thawte, to VeriSign for somewhere north of half a billion dollars. Not one to relax, Shuttleworth also became the first citizen of an independent African country to travel to space, and decided to become a resident on the Isle of Man where, I am led to believe, he focuses, among other things, on reforesting land.

One thing Shuttleworth does have in common with his fellow technorati is the ownership of a private jet -- in his case, a Bombardier Global Express, often referred to as Canonical One.

(As an aside, and having enjoyed a number of thoughtful and wide-ranging conversations with Shuttleworth, I'd encourage anyone with the time and inclination to watch the recording of a dynamic 2012 Oxford Union debate about innovation and the coming technological deficit involving Garry Kasparov -- a 13th world chess champion -- Peter Thiel -- the well-known Silicon Valley investor -- Professor Kenneth Rogoff -- Thomas D. Cabot professor of public policy and professor of economics at Harvard University -- and Shuttleworth.)

Anyway, back on to Canonical. Not satisfied simply enjoying the success they've seen with Ubuntu, Canonical has been actively looking into new areas of innovation. The development of Ubuntu Snappy, an ultra-lightweight operating system that is applicable to embedded devices and IoT applications, is one direction, but another is Juju, a model-driven operations system. Formerly known as Ensemble, Juju is an open source (of course) orchestration management tool that aims to make it quicker and easier to deploy integrate and scale software.

The central mechanism behind Juju is called Charms. Individual Charms can be written in any programming language that can be executed via the command line. A Charm is a collection of configuration files and a selection of "hooks." A hook is a naming convention to install software, start/stop a service, manage relationships with other charms, upgrade charms, scale charms, configure charms, etc. Charms can have many properties. Charm helpers allow boiler-plate code to be automatically generated, hence accelerating the creation of charms.

While Juju has, until now, been a somewhat esoteric initiative, it would seem to be gaining traction as Canonical announces that it has managed to gain multiple partners to sign up to its partner program for Juju Charms -- Nuage Networks from Nokia, CloudBase Solutions, Midokura and Quobyte have all signed up to the program.

This is a win for both camps -- for Canonical, it is a tick of approval for the notion around Juju, while for the partners it allows them to offer customers a consistent operating platform on top of which their own storage and networking products can be effected. Previous sign-ups for the partner program came from TreasureData, Datafellas, Elastisys, LeoStream, Listeq and Caring.

The rise of more complex architectures increases the requirement to ensure that individual components -- be they networking, storage or compute aspects -- can be managed at scale and across dynamic environments. Canonical speaks to this increasing complexity in its release:

“Big software is a phase change in operations caused by rising scale and complexity,” said Shuttleworth. “Model-driven operations with Juju use shared, open source operations code for common components, so companies can focus precious resources on creating software that is unique to their business.”

As for the partners themselves, it is a logical way to increase uptake for small and less well-known initiatives trying to reach escape velocity:

"Juju Charms are a great technology for modeling and deploying complex distributed systems. With the Quobyte charms, we can deploy our data center file system in a versatile and simple way for standalone installations as well as integrated block and file storage for OpenStack," said Felix Hupfeld, CTO, Quobyte Inc.


There is no doubt that a model-driven approach to infrastructure is increasingly valuable in this complex world. Indeed, the model driven approach mimics the increasing demand for automation across infrastructure that we've seen offered by automation movements such as Puppet and Chef. 

Canonical can always be relied upon to think about not only where the technology industry is today but, to borrow a metaphor, about where the puck is heading. Something tells me that Shuttleworth and co. have found some good Juju here.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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