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Debian launches new fork of its Linux distribution

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December 1, 2014

The marked differences and the strong variations in opinion over Debian's future direction has prompted the group to launch a new fork of its Linux distribution over the weekend.

The disagreements centred on various plans to replace the sysvinit system management toolkit with systemd, a similar but less-Linux-specific set of tools.

The “No” camp complained that systemd is not well-aligned with Unix philosophies, reflects the rise of a “do-ocracy” whereby effort trumps quality and steers Debian in the direction of the desktop.

The “Yes” camp are said to largely come from the ranks of Gnome developers. Negotiations have considered making systemd optional, but those talks appear not to have gone well if this post are anything to go by-- it announces a fork called Devuan.

Devuan's backers call themselves the “Veteran Unix Admin Collective” and, on their new site offer the following rationale:

“Devuan aims to be a base distribution whose mission is protect the freedom of its community of users and developers. Its priority is to enable diversity, interoperability and backward compatibility for existing Debian users and downstream distributions willing to preserve Init's freedom.

The webpage goes on to explain that “Devuan will derive its own installer and package repositories from Debian, modifying them where necessary, with the first goal of removing systemd, still inheriting the Debian development workflow while continuing it on a different path-- free from bloat as a minimalist base distro should be.”

A target “spring of 2015” release will see users “be able to switch from Debian 7 to Devuan 1 smoothly, as if they would dist-upgrade to Jessie, and start using our package repositories.”

The group's intention to develop a distribution “free from bloat as a minimalist base distro should be” may also set some teeth grinding.

Whatever your position is on this issue, Devuan is now a real thing. A GitHub page is being populated, and it's possible to make donations.

Jeff Waugh, a former member of the Gnome Foundation board says he feels “The 'no systemd' stuff is a stupid premise, for an audience of a tiny, unpleasantly vocal minority.”

“There’s no way it will attract the kind of sustained maintenance that Debian has achieved for over 10 years,” he said. “For a fork or child distribution to work, it has to solve a real problem. Doesn’t include systemd is not a real problem,” he added.

Waugh also feels “it’s very early in the lifetime of systemd, so it would be wiser to see how it goes before throwing additional tools around as some folks have done already.”

Linux vendor Suse kicked off this year's Suse Conference in Orlando by announcing that it's getting into the software-defined storage business, starting early in 2015.

The company made a new offering, known simply as Suse Storage, available in private beta beginning on Tuesday, with general availability expected for the first half of next year.

That Suse should want a piece of the storage market should come as no surprise. In a statement announcing the new offering, Suse Storage product manager Larry Morris said the storage market is "poised for disruptive change, just like the server market was fifteen years ago."

And he might be right about that, but what is somewhat unexpected is that Suse has chosen to hitch its storage ambitions to the open source distributed block, object, and file storage system Ceph.

Inktank, the company behind Ceph, was acquired by Suse rival Red Hat in April of this year for $175 million and is now a wholly owned subsidiary.

But while Red Hat still offers Inktank Ceph Enterprise as a commercial product, the core Ceph software still remains open source, meaning that there's nothing preventing Suse or other companies from rolling distributions of their own.

A pure-software offering, Ceph is designed to run on commodity servers and disk arrays as an alternative to costly equipment from traditional storage vendors like EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, IBM and NetApp.

In a recent report, Gartner said it expects Ceph and similar open source storage systems to reach 20 percent market share by 2018, as escalating enterprise data retention drives up demand for lower cost but reliable storage systems.

The first version of Suse Storage will be based on the Firefly release of Ceph, the company said. Pricing was not discussed and no shipping date was given, but companies that would like to participate in the beta program can contact Suse to get on the list.

Suse also added that it has teamed up with SAP to help lure Suse customers to the SAP HANA data analytics platform.

Under the new program, qualifying startups will be able to download a virtual machine that comes preloaded with a developer edition of HANA running on Suse Linux Enterprise Server and try it out for six months at no charge.

They'll also be eligible for free training from Suse's Certified Linux Administrator (CLA) Academy.

Suse threw a couple of bones to Suse Linux Enterprise customers during Tuesday's SuseCon keynotes. The first is that live kernel patching based on the kGraft project is now available on a subscription basis for every maintenance release of Suse Linux Enterprise Server 12 for the 64-bit Intel architecture.

The technology allows system admins to apply security patches to production servers without rebooting or stopping the system.

"It's a fully open source solution that features zero-interruption interaction with the system and a familiar deployment method," Suse product manager Matthias Eckerman said in a statement.

"It's ideal for mission-critical systems, in-memory databases, extended simulations or quick fixes in a large server farm," he added.

Overall, Suse has also adjusted its licensing terms to allow enterprise customers to migrate their existing Suse subscriptions to virtual machine instances running in the public cloud, at no additional cost.

The subscriptions can be used to migrate existing workloads to the cloud or to spin up entirely new ones. The only catch is that the bring-your-own-subscription option is only available with Suse Certified Cloud Providers.

The Linux Foundation is targeting second generation drones through a new initiative that will build a dependable open-source software platform for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Dubbed 'The Dronecode Project' the new initiative is due to be announced today at the Embedded Linux Conference in Dusseldorf, Germany.

The Dronecode Project is founded on the APM UAV software and code that had been hosted by project co-founding member 3D Robotics, until now that is.

Other founding members include Box, DroneDeploy and jDrones. The Linux Foundation said that the Dronecode project would help advance several technologies in data analysis, storage and display for drones and accelerate adoption of more affordable and reliable open-source software for UAVs.

Drones are enjoying a mainstream renaissance in acceptance and application thanks to unending automated war in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

However, building drone systems often sees drone makers building their own software systems. This can mean greater cost and potential problems in the code while throwing up a hurdle to those building drone hardware and apps, not to mention the costly delays to the final product.

All this is a real problem not just for drone makers but also for customers looking for affordable and reliable flying machines.

The Linux Foundation is normally associated with its work on extending the presence of the Linux kernel and in more Earth-bound locations, so this is a big project that has several ramifications and in more directions than in the recent past.

Dronecode becomes a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, same as the merged Mego and Tiezen efforts for Linux in devices, the Xen hypervisor, and Open Daylight for software-defined networking (SDN).

The Linux Foundation apparently believes that it can bring the same process, order and buy-in to drone software that it has on other projects.

To be sure, Dronecode will be governed by a Linux Foundation Technical Steering Committee, which will become the primary decision-making group.

Falling under the Linux Foundation means that Dronecode can scale and be developed in a vendor-neutral environment.

The project will be headed by Rsync author and Samba co-lead Andrew Tridgell – also lead maintainer in the development of APM.

Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation, said in a statement the Dronecode community would now “receive the support required of a massive project right at its moment of breakthrough.”

“The result will be even greater innovation and a common platform for drone and robotics open source projects,” he added.

In other Linux Foundation News

The Linux Foundation has added another element to its various offerings, with the launch of its OPNFV initiative, a project for an open-source network function virtualization (NFV) platform.

The project comes with a roster of high-profile vendors backing it-- AT&T, Brocade, Cisco, China Mobile, Huawei, IBM, Juniper and a few others.

The goal is to create a reference architecture for carrier-grade NFV, the abstraction of operations that usually reside on custom silicon into software objects built to run on VMs on standard, but usually Intel-based servers.

Rather than developing its own standards, OPNFV will be working with the ETSI group that's formulating the new NFV standards.

As the group explains in its launch announcement-- “Service provider applications have different demands than most IT applications, so an open platform integrating multiple open source components and ensuring continuous testing for carrier-grade service performance is essential to this transition.”

The project says it will draw from existing NVF building blocks that exist, pulling them into a framework under which it'll “coordinate continuous integration and testing”.

Its own code efforts will focus on filling various gaps in the architecture rather than re-creating functions that already exist.

New components will ship under the Apache License Version 2.0. Board officers include Verizon and HP veteran Prodip Sen as chairman, AT&T's Margaret Chiosi, Dell's Wenjing Chu, and China Mobile's Hui Deng.

In other Linux and open source news

Not quite satisfied of running the IT industry's largest enterprise Linux vendor, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst says he wants to make the company the industry's leading enterprise cloud vendor and he plans to win that big market before someone else does.

"Right now, we're in the middle of a major shift from client-server to cloud-mobile. It's a once-every-twenty-years industry kind of a change," Whitehurst wrote in a blog post yesterday.

"As history has clearly demonstrated, in the early days of those changes, winners emerge that set the standards for that era-– think Wintel in the client-server arena," he added.

However, Red Hat certainly isn't alone in eyeballing the cloud for its next big score. 451 Research has estimated the market for OpenStack alone at $3.3 billion by 2018, and companies ranging from Linux vendors like Canonical to entrenched IT companies like HP, Oracle, and VMware are all vying to come out on top of it.

And then of course there's Microsoft, which has outlined its own vision of a "cloud OS" – naturally, powered 100 percent by its own, proprietary Windows software.

"Make no mistake-- the competition is very strong, and enterprises will have several choices for their cloud needs," Whitehurst admitted. "But the prize is the chance to establish open source as the default choice of this next new era, and to position Red Hat as the provider of choice for enterprises' entire cloud infrastructure."

Whitehurst said that Shadowman will stake its cloud efforts on a combination of OpenStack, its OpenShift PaaS offering, and its CloudForms management platform.

But it will also push its storage solutions and JBoss middleware, he said, to deliver as much of the enterprise infrastructure stack as it can.

This shift in strategy toward the cloud doesn't mean that Red Hat will reduce its focus on Linux either, Whitehurst added.

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It's just that these days, the engineering challenge is a lot bigger and much more complex that it was a decade ago.

"The original vision for Red Hat Enterprise Linux was simple – to create the best enterprise-class server operating system," Whitehurst said. "But the community has taken Linux further than any of us could ever have imagined. It now serves as a foundation for the next-generation datacenter."

Going forward, he said, Red Hat, which has seen revenue growth in the double digits, is putting all of its efforts into helping enterprise customers build out those next-gen data centers.

"We want to be the undisputed leader in enterprise cloud solutions, and that's why Red Hat is going to continue to push," Whitehurst wrote in his blog post.

In other Linux and open source news

Ubuntu Linux vendor Canonical and AMD have announced this morning a new hardware partnership that will see the two firms prepare an OpenStack-in-a-rack solution that will compete directly with Red Hat.

To be sure, Canonical is quite excited on the news, having revealed earlier this year the 'Orange Box' portable cluster.

That small unit packs ten micro-servers into a portable luggable unit intended to offer a cluster of Ubuntu-powered Hadoop, OpenStack or CloudFoundry system.

The new system is based on AMD's SeaMicro SM-15000 server, a product that uses either AMD's Opteron, Ivy Bridge or Haswell Xeon processors, then packs them into a 10U package with up to 512 cores, 5 PB of storage and 160 gigabits of total I/O capability.

Overall, buyers will also get version Ubuntu LTS 14.04 (LTS: long term support) and OpenStack, assembled to provide the following:

  • 3 Cloud Controllers
  • 57 Nova nodes
  • 3 Cinder nodes
  • 64 TB Object Storage
  • 128 GbE NICs (Max. 512)
  • Integrated Layer 2 Switching
  • 80 Gbps I/O
  • On the software side, users will find Ubuntu LTS 14.04, Ubuntu Server, OpenStack, MAAS and Juju ready to start working together as a complete system.

    There's also a graphical user interface to dynamically deploy new services on demand.

    That inclusion means that this effort can probably be filed under “hyperconverged infrastructure,” a segment in which AMD and Canonical will find vivid competition.

    Source: Debian.

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