Canonical, the company behind widely used Linux distribution Ubuntu, has released a new spin-up-a-private-cloud offering called MicroCloud – with enterprise support via its Ubuntu Pro subscription.
Canonical’s press release was typically unreadable, so The Stack took 30 minutes out to decipher it. What the heck is MicroCloud? How can you use this new offering? Should you care? Here’s our hot take.
What is Canonical’s Microcloud?
MicroCloud creates a small-footprint cluster of compute nodes with distributed storage and secure networking. It’s aimed at those seeking to swiftly spin up a small-scale private cloud, including for edge use cases and can be used to launch Ubuntu containers or virtual machines.
The company claims the new offering will be a “cost-effective alternative to VMware vSphere, Hyper-V and Proxmox Virtual Environment” – all fairly different variations of the “manage this infrastructure as a unified operating environment, and here are the tools to administer it” theme.
MicroCloud can scale from three servers to around 50-node clusters and it is lightweight enough, claims Canonical, to run on a developer laptop.
It is now generally available.
Canonical’s MicroCloud ships as a snap package (an application that is containerised with all its dependencies, which can be installed using a single command on any device running Linux) that can automatically and easily configure three core functions across a given set of servers.
They are LXD (a way of running and managing full Linux systems inside containers or virtual machines), Ceph (software-defined storage), and OVN or “Open Virtual Network” (a software-defined networking system that supports virtual network abstraction) across a chosen set of servers.
(These, simply, respectively handle compute, storage, and networking. Storage can be local or remote. Users can add new machine after installation with the straightforward command sudo microcloud add.)
Canonical said MicroCloud relies on mDNS to automatically detect other servers on the network, letting users set up a complete cluster by running a single command on one of the machines. (mDNS, originally created at Apple, is a protocol that performs local network name and service discovery across small networks with no conventional DNS server.)
MicroCloud in short, and per Canonical: “Creates a small footprint cluster of compute nodes with distributed storage and secure networking [and lets] organisations… use the same infrastructure primitives and services wherever they are needed. It is suitable for business-in-branch office locations or industrial use inside a factory, as well as distributed locations where the focus is on replicability and unattended operations.”
Users can run their workloads using Kubernetes or via system containers: “System containers based on LXD behave similarly to traditional VMs but consume fewer resources while providing bare-metal performance.”
Canonical thinks, per a whitepaper rustled up by The Stack and intended for CTOs, that the service, now GA, may help to “reduce the cost of maintaining a high bandwidth for transferring data to a central cloud.”
“It also cuts down on central cloud storage costs; provide organisational resilience to cloud outages and control over data governance and compliance” and “low-latency edge sites provide enterprises with the potential to support localised services of higher value, customising the end user experience and making the most of local data (eg., sensors).”