From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Friday, December 19, 2014

AWSnap! Snappy Ubuntu Now Available on AWS!

Awww snap!

That's right!  Snappy Ubuntu images are now on AWS, for your EC2 computing pleasure.

Enjoy this screencast as we start a Snappy Ubuntu instance in AWS, and install the xkcd-webserver package.

And a transcript of the commands follows below.

kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ cat cloud.cfg
       ssh_enabled: True
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ aws ec2 describe-images \
> --region us-east-1 \
> --image-ids ami-5c442634

    "Images": [
            "ImageType": "machine",
            "Description": "ubuntu-core-devel-1418912739-141-amd64",
            "Hypervisor": "xen",
            "ImageLocation": "ucore-images/ubuntu-core-devel-1418912739-141-amd64.manifest.xml",
            "SriovNetSupport": "simple",
            "ImageId": "ami-5c442634",
            "RootDeviceType": "instance-store",
            "Architecture": "x86_64",
            "BlockDeviceMappings": [],
            "State": "available",
            "VirtualizationType": "hvm",
            "Name": "ubuntu-core-devel-1418912739-141-amd64",
            "OwnerId": "649108100275",
            "Public": false
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ # NOTE: This AMI will almost certainly have changed by the time you're watching this ;-)
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ clear
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ aws ec2 run-instances \
> --region us-east-1 \
> --image-id ami-5c442634 \
> --key-name id_rsa \
> --instance-type m3.medium \
> --user-data "$(cat cloud.cfg)"
    "ReservationId": "r-c6811e28",
    "Groups": [
            "GroupName": "default",
            "GroupId": "sg-d5d135bc"
    "OwnerId": "357813986684",
    "Instances": [
            "KeyName": "id_rsa",
            "PublicDnsName": null,
            "ProductCodes": [],
            "StateTransitionReason": null,
            "LaunchTime": "2014-12-18T17:29:07.000Z",
            "Monitoring": {
                "State": "disabled"
            "ClientToken": null,
            "StateReason": {
                "Message": "pending",
                "Code": "pending"
            "RootDeviceType": "instance-store",
            "Architecture": "x86_64",
            "PrivateDnsName": null,
            "ImageId": "ami-5c442634",
            "BlockDeviceMappings": [],
            "Placement": {
                "GroupName": null,
                "AvailabilityZone": "us-east-1e",
                "Tenancy": "default"
            "AmiLaunchIndex": 0,
            "VirtualizationType": "hvm",
            "NetworkInterfaces": [],
            "SecurityGroups": [
                    "GroupName": "default",
                    "GroupId": "sg-d5d135bc"
            "State": {
                "Name": "pending",
                "Code": 0
            "Hypervisor": "xen",
            "InstanceId": "i-af43de51",
            "InstanceType": "m3.medium",
            "EbsOptimized": false
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ aws ec2 describe-instances --region us-east-1 | grep PublicIpAddress
                    "PublicIpAddress": "",
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ssh -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa ubuntu@
ssh: connect to host port 22: Connection refused
255 kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ssh -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa ubuntu@
The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is 91:91:6e:0a:54:a5:07:b9:79:30:5b:61:d4:a8:ce:6f.
No matching host key fingerprint found in DNS.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Warning: Permanently added '' (RSA) to the list of known hosts.
Welcome to Ubuntu Vivid Vervet (development branch) (GNU/Linux 3.16.0-25-generic x86_64)

 * Documentation:

The programs included with the Ubuntu system are free software;
the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

Ubuntu comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by
applicable law.

Welcome to the Ubuntu Core rolling development release.

 * See

It's a brave new world here in snappy Ubuntu Core! This machine
does not use apt-get or deb packages. Please see 'snappy --help'
for app installation and transactional updates.

To run a command as administrator (user "root"), use "sudo ".
See "man sudo_root" for details.

ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ mount
sysfs on /sys type sysfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
proc on /proc type proc (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
udev on /dev type devtmpfs (rw,relatime,size=1923976k,nr_inodes=480994,mode=755)
devpts on /dev/pts type devpts (rw,nosuid,noexec,relatime,gid=5,mode=620,ptmxmode=000)
tmpfs on /run type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,noexec,relatime,size=385432k,mode=755)
/dev/xvda1 on / type ext4 (ro,relatime,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /writable type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
tmpfs on /run type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,noexec,relatime,mode=755)
tmpfs on /etc/fstab type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,noexec,relatime,mode=755)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/systemd/system type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
securityfs on /sys/kernel/security type securityfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
tmpfs on /dev/shm type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev)
tmpfs on /run/lock type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,size=5120k)
tmpfs on /sys/fs/cgroup type tmpfs (ro,nosuid,nodev,noexec,mode=755)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/systemd type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,xattr,release_agent=/lib/systemd/systemd-cgroups-agent,name=systemd)
pstore on /sys/fs/pstore type pstore (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/cpuset type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,cpuset,clone_children)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/cpu,cpuacct type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,cpu,cpuacct)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/memory type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,memory)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/devices type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,devices)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/freezer type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,freezer)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/net_cls,net_prio type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,net_cls,net_prio)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,blkio)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/perf_event type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,perf_event)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/hugetlb type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,hugetlb)
tmpfs on /etc/machine-id type tmpfs (ro,relatime,size=385432k,mode=755)
systemd-1 on /proc/sys/fs/binfmt_misc type autofs (rw,relatime,fd=22,pgrp=1,timeout=300,minproto=5,maxproto=5,direct)
hugetlbfs on /dev/hugepages type hugetlbfs (rw,relatime)
debugfs on /sys/kernel/debug type debugfs (rw,relatime)
mqueue on /dev/mqueue type mqueue (rw,relatime)
fusectl on /sys/fs/fuse/connections type fusectl (rw,relatime)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/hosts type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/sudoers.d type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /root type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/click/frameworks type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /usr/share/click/frameworks type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/systemd/snappy type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/systemd/click type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/initramfs-tools type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/writable type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/ssh type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/tmp type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/apparmor type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/cache/apparmor type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/apparmor.d/cache type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/ufw type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/log type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/system-image type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
tmpfs on /var/lib/sudo type tmpfs (rw,relatime,mode=700)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/logrotate type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/dhcp type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/dbus type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/cloud type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/apps type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
tmpfs on /mnt type tmpfs (rw,relatime)
tmpfs on /tmp type tmpfs (rw,relatime)
/dev/xvda3 on /apps type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /home type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvdb on /mnt type ext3 (rw,relatime,data=ordered)
tmpfs on /run/user/1000 type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,relatime,size=385432k,mode=700,uid=1000,gid=1000)
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ mount | grep " / "
/dev/xvda1 on / type ext4 (ro,relatime,data=ordered)
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo touch /foo
touch: cannot touch ‘/foo’: Read-only file system
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo apt-get update
Ubuntu Core does not use apt-get, see 'snappy --help'!
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy --help
Usage:snappy [-h] [-v]

snappy command line interface

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -v, --version         Print this version string and exit

    rollback            undo last system-image update.
    fake-version        ==SUPPRESS==
    nap                 ==SUPPRESS==
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy info
release: ubuntu-core/devel
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy versions -a
Part         Tag   Installed  Available  Fingerprint     Active
ubuntu-core  edge  141        -          7f068cb4fa876c  *
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy search docker
Part    Version    Description
docker  The docker app deployment mechanism
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy install docker
docker      4 MB     [=============================================================================================================]    OK
Part    Tag   Installed  Available  Fingerprint     Active
docker  edge  -          b1f2f85e77adab  *
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy versions -a
Part         Tag   Installed  Available  Fingerprint     Active
ubuntu-core  edge  141        -          7f068cb4fa876c  *
docker       edge  -          b1f2f85e77adab  *
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy search webserver
Part                  Version  Description
go-example-webserver  1.0.1    Minimal Golang webserver for snappy
xkcd-webserver        0.3.1    Show random XKCD compic via a build-in webserver
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy install xkcd-webserver
xkcd-webserver     21 kB     [=====================================================================================================]    OK
Part            Tag   Installed  Available  Fingerprint     Active
xkcd-webserver  edge  0.3.1      -          3a9152b8bff494  *
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ exit
Connection to closed.
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ec2-instances
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ec2-terminate-instances i-af43de51
INSTANCE        i-af43de51      running shutting-down


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hollywood Technodrama -- There's an App for that!

Wargames.  Hackers.  Swordfish.  Superman 3.  Jurassic Park.  GoldenEye.  The Matrix.

You've all seen the high stakes hacking scene, packed with techno-babble and dripping in drama.  And the command and control center with dozens of over-sized monitors, overloaded with scrolling text...

I was stuck on a plane a few weeks back, traveling home from Las Vegas, and the in flight WiFi was down.  I know, I know.  Real world problems.  Suddenly, I had 2 hours on my hands, without access to email, IRC, or any other distractions.

It's at this point I turned to my folder of unfinished ideas, and cherry-picked one that would take just a couple of fun hours to hack.  And I'm pleased to introduce the fruits of that, um, labor -- the hollywood package for Ubuntu :-)  Call it an early Christmas present!  All code is on both Launchpad and Github.

If you're already running Vivid (Ubuntu 15.04) -- I salute you! -- and you can simply:

sudo apt-get install hollywood

If you're on any other version of Ubuntu, you'll need to:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:hollywood/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install hollywood

Fire up a terminal, maximize it, open byobu, and run the hollywood command.  Then sit back and soak into the trance...

I recently jumped on the vertical monitor bandwagon, for my secondary display.  It's fantastic for reading and writing code.  It's also hollywood-worthy ;-)

How does all of this work?

For starters, it's all running in a Byobu (tmux) session, which enables us to split a single shell console into a bunch of "panes" or "splits".

The hollywood package depends on a handful of utilities that I found (mostly apt-cache searching the Ubuntu archives for monitors and utilities).  You can find a handful of scripts in /usr/lib/hollywood/.  Each of these is a "driver" for a widget that might run in one of these splits.  And ccze is magical, accepting input on stdin and colorizing the text.

In fact, they're quite easy to write :-)  I'm happy to accept contributions of new driver widgets, as long as you follow a couple of simple rules.  Each widget:
  • Must run as a regular, non-root user
  • Must not eat all available CPU, Disk, or Memory
  • Must not write data
  • Must run indefinitely, until receiving a Ctrl-C
  • Must look hollywood cool!
So far, we have widgets that: generate passphrases encoded in NATO phonetic, monitor and render network bandwidth, emulate The Matrix, find and display, with syntax highlighting, source code on the system, show a bunch of error codes, hexdump a bunch of binaries, monitor some processes, render some images to ASCII art, colorize some log files, open random manpages, generate SSH keys and show their random art, stat a bunch of inodes in /proc and /sys and /dev, and show the tree output of some directories.

I also grabbed a copy of the Mission Impossible theme song, licensed under the Creative Commons.  I played it in the Totem music player in Ubuntu, with the Monoscope visual effect, and recorded a screencast with gtk-recordmydesktop.  I then mixed the output .ogv file, with the original .mp3 file, and transcoded it to mp4/h264/aac, reducing the audio bitrate to 64k and frame size to 128x96, using this command:
avconv -i missionimpossible.ogv -i MissionImpossibleTheme.mp3 -s 128x96 -b 64k -vcodec libx264 -acodec aac -f mpegts -strict experimental -y mi.mp4

Then, hollywood plays it in one of the splits with mplayer's ascii art video output on the console :-)

DISPLAY= mplayer -vo caca /usr/share/hollywood/mi.mp4

Sound totally cheesy?  Why, yes, it is :-)  That's the point :-)

Oh, and by the way...  If you ever sit down at someone else's Linux PC, and want to freak them out a little, just type:

ubuntu@x230:~⟫ PS1="root@$(hostname):~# "; clear 

And then have fun!
That latter "hack", as well as the entire concept of hollywood is inspired in part by Kees Cook's awesome talk, in particular his "Useless Hollywood Drama Mode" in his exploit demo.
Happy hacking!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Snappy Ubuntu Walkthrough on Google Compute Engine

As promised last week, we're now proud to introduce Ubuntu Snappy images on another of our public cloud partners -- Google Compute Engine.
In the video below, you can join us walking through the instructions we have published here.
Snap it up!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It's a Snap!

A couple of months ago, I re-introduced an old friend -- Ubuntu JeOS (Just enough OS) -- the smallest, (merely 63MB compressed!) functional OS image that we can still call “Ubuntu”.  In fact, we call it Ubuntu Core.

That post was a prelude to something we’ve been actively developing at Canonical for most of 2014 -- Snappy Ubuntu Core!  Snappy Ubuntu combines the best of the ground-breaking image-based Ubuntu remix known as Ubuntu Touch for phones and tablets with the base Ubuntu server operating system trusted by millions of instances in the cloud.

Snappy introduces transactional updates and atomic, image based workflows -- old ideas implemented in databases for decades -- adapted to Ubuntu cloud and server ecosystems for the emerging cloud design patterns known as microservice architectures.

The underlying, base operating system is a very lean Ubuntu Core installation, running on a read-only system partition, much like your iOS, Android, or Ubuntu phone.  One or more “frameworks” can be installed through the snappy command, which is an adaptation of the click packaging system we developed for the Ubuntu Phone.  Perhaps the best sample framework is Docker.  Applications are also packaged and installed using snappy, but apps run within frameworks.  This means that any of the thousands of Docker images available in DockerHub are trivially installable as snap packages, running on the Docker framework in Snappy Ubuntu.

Take Snappy for a Drive

You can try Snappy for yourself in minutes!

You can download Snappy and launch it in a local virtual machine like this:

$ wget
$ kvm -m 512 -redir :2222::22 -redir :4443::443 ubuntu-core-alpha-01.img

Then, SSH into it with password 'ubuntu':

$ ssh -p 2222 ubuntu@localhost

At this point, you might want to poke around the system.  Take a look at the mount points, and perhaps try to touch or modify some files.

$ sudo rm /sbin/init
rm: cannot remove ‘/sbin/init’: Permission denied
$ sudo touch /foo

touch: cannot touch ‘foo’: Permission denied
$ apt-get install docker
apt-get: command not found

Rather, let's have a look at the new snappy package manager:

$ sudo snappy --help

And now, let’s install the Docker framework:

$ sudo snappy install docker

At this point, we can do essentially anything available in the Docker ecosystem!

Now, we’ve created some sample Snappy apps using existing Docker containers.  For one example, let’s now install OwnCloud:

$ sudo snappy install owncloud

This will take a little while to install, but eventually, you can point a browser at your own private OwnCloud image, running within a Docker container, on your brand new Ubuntu Snappy system.

We can also update the entire system with a simple command and a reboot:
$ sudo snappy versions
$ sudo snappy update
$ sudo reboot

And we can rollback to the previous version!
$ sudo snappy rollback
$ sudo reboot

Here's a short screencast of all of the above...

While the downloadable image is available for your local testing today, you will very soon be able to launch Snappy Ubuntu instances in your favorite public (Azure, GCE, AWS) and private clouds (OpenStack).


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Try These 7 Tips in Your Next Blog Post

In a presentation to my colleagues last week, I shared a few tips I've learned over the past 8 years, maintaining a reasonably active and read blog.  I'm delighted to share these with you now!

1. Keep it short and sweet

Too often, we spend hours or days working on a blog post, trying to create an epic tome.  I have dozens of draft posts I'll never finish, as they're just too ambitious, and I should really break them down into shorter, more manageable articles.

Above, you can see Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, from November 19, 1863.  It's merely 3 paragraphs, 10 sentences, and less than 300 words.  And yet it's one of the most powerful messages ever delivered in American history.  Lincoln wrote it himself on the train to Gettysburg, and delivered it as a speech in less than 2 minutes.

2. Use memorable imagery

Particularly, you need one striking image at the top of your post.  This is what most automatic syndicates or social media platforms will pick up and share, and will make the first impression on phones and tablets.

3. Pen a catchy, pithy title

More people will see or read your title than the post itself.  It's sort of like the chorus to that song you know, but you don't know the rest of the lyrics.  A good title attracts readers and invites re-shares.

4. Publish midweek

This is probably more applicable for professional, rather than hobbyist, topics, but the data I have on my blog (1.7 million unique page views over 8 years), is that the majority of traffic lands on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  While I'm writing this very post on a rainy Saturday morning over a cup of coffee, I've scheduled it to publish at 8:17am (US Central time) on the following Tuesday morning.

5. Share to your social media circles

My posts are generally professional in nature, so I tend to share them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Facebook is really more of a family-only thing for me, but you might choose to share your posts there too.  With the lamentable death of the Google Reader a few years ago, it's more important than ever to share links to posts on your social media platforms.

6. Hope for syndication, but never expect it

So this is the one "tip" that's really out of your control.  If you ever wake up one morning to an overflowing inbox, congratulations -- your post just went "viral".  Unfortunately, this either "happens", or it "doesn't".  In fact, it almost always "doesn't" for most of us.

7. Engage with comments only when it makes sense

If you choose to use a blog platform that allows comments (and I do recommend you do), then be a little careful about when and how to engage in the comments.  You can easily find yourself overwhelmed with vitriol and controversy.  You might get a pat on the back or two.  More likely, though, you'll end up under a bridge getting pounded by a troll.  Rather than waste your time fighting a silly battle with someone who'll never admit defeat, start writing your next post.  I ignore trolls entirely.

A Case Study

As a case study, I'll take as an example the most successful post I've written: Fingerprints are Usernames, Not Passwords, with nearly a million unique page views.

  1. The entire post is short and sweet, weighing in at under 500 words and about 20 sentences
  2. One iconic, remarkable image at the top
  3. A succinct, expressive title
  4. Published on Tuesday, October 1, 2013
  5. 1561 +1's on G+, 168 retweets on Twitter
  6. Shared on Reddit and HackerNews (twice)
  7. 434 comments, some not so nice

Monday, November 24, 2014

USENIX LISA14 Talk: Deploy and Scale OpenStack

I had the great pleasure to deliver a 90 minute talk at the USENIX LISA14 conference, in Seattle, Washington.

During the course of the talk, we managed to:

  • Deploy OpenStack Juno across 6 physical nodes, on an Orange Box on stage
  • Explain all of the major components of OpenStack (Nova, Neutron, Swift, Cinder, Horizon, Keystone, Glance, Ceilometer, Heat, Trove, Sahara)
  • Explore the deployed OpenStack cloud's Horizon interface in depth
  • Configured Neutron networking with internal and external networks, as well as a gateway and a router
  • Setup our security groups to open ICMP and SSH ports
  • Upload an SSH keypair
  • Modify the flavor parameters
  • Update a bunch of quotas
  • Add multiple images to Glance
  • Launch some instances until we max out our hypervisor limits
  • Scale up the Nova Compute nodes from 3 units to 6 units
  • Deploy a real workload (Hadoop + Hive + Kibana + Elastic Search)
  • Then, we deleted the entire environment, and ran it all over again from scratch, non-stop
Slides and a full video are below.  Enjoy!


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where We're Going With LXD

Earlier this week, here in Paris, at the OpenStack Design Summit, Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical introduced our vision and proof of concept for LXD.

You can find the official blog post on Canonical Insights, and a short video introduction on Youtube (by yours truly).

Our Canonical colleague Stephane Graber posted a bit more technical design detail here on the lxc-devel mailing list, which was picked up by HackerNews.  And LWN published a story yesterday covering another Canonical colleague of ours, Serge Hallyn, and his work on Cgroups and CGManager, all of which feeds into LXD.  As it happens, Stephane and Serge are upstream co-maintainers of Linux Containers.  Tycho Andersen, another colleague of ours, has been working on CRIU, which was the heart of his amazing demo this week, live migrating a container running the cult classic 1st person shooter, Doom! between two containers, back and forth.

Moreover, we've answered a few journalists' questions for excellent articles on ZDnet and SynergyMX.  Predictably, El Reg is skeptical (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).  But unfortunately, The Var Guy doesn't quite understand the technology (and unfortunately uses this article to conflate LXD with other random Canonical/Ubuntu complaints).

In any case, here's a bit more about LXD, in my own words...

Our primary design goal with LXD, is to extend containers into process based systems that behave like virtual machines.

We love KVM for its total machine abstraction, as a full virtualization hypervisor.  Moreover, we love what Docker does for application level development, confinement, packaging, and distribution.

But as an operating system and Linux distribution, our customers are, in fact, asking us for complete operating systems that boot and function within a Linux Container's execution space, natively.

Linux Containers are essential to our reference architecture of OpenStack, where we co-locate multiple services on each host.  Nearly every host is a Nova compute node, as well as a Ceph storage node, and also run a couple of units of "OpenStack overhead", such as MySQL, RabbitMQ, MongoDB, etc.  Rather than running each of those services all on the same physical system, we actually put each of them in their own container, with their own IP address, namespace, cgroup, etc.  This gives us tremendous flexibility, in the orchestration of those services.  We're able to move (migrate, even live migrate) those services from one host to another.  With that, it becomes possible to "evacuate" a given host, by moving each contained set of services elsewhere, perhaps a larger or smaller system, and then shut down the unit (perhaps to replace a hard drive or memory, or repurpose it entirely).

Containers also enable us to similarly confine services on virtual machines themselves!  Let that sink in for a second...  A contained workload is able, then, to move from one virtual machine to another, to a bare metal system.  Even from one public cloud provider, to another public or private cloud!

The last two paragraphs capture a few best practices that what we've learned over the last few years implementing OpenStack for some of the largest telcos and financial services companies in the world.  What we're hearing from Internet service and cloud providers is not too dissimilar...  These customers have their own customers who want cloud instances that perform at bare metal equivalence.  They also want to maximize the utilization of their server hardware, sometimes by more densely packing workloads on given systems.

As such, LXD is then a convergence of several different customer requirements, and our experience deploying some massively complex, scalable workloads (a la OpenStack, Hadoop, and others) in enterprises. 

The rapid evolution of a few key technologies under and around LXC have recently made this dream possible.  Namely: User namespaces, Cgroups, SECCOMP, AppArmorCRIU, as well as the library abstraction that our external tools use to manage these containers as systems.

LXD is a new "hypervisor" in that it provides (REST) APIs that can manage Linux Containers.  This is a step function beyond where we've been to date: able to start and stop containers with local commands and, to a limited extent, libvirt, but not much more.  "Booting" a system, in a container, running an init system, bringing up network devices (without nasty hacks in the container's root filesystem), etc. was challenging, but we've worked our way all of these, and Ubuntu boots unmodified in Linux Containers today.

Moreover, LXD is a whole new semantic for turning any machine -- Intel, AMD, ARM, POWER, physical, or even a virtual machine (e.g. your cloud instances) -- into a system that can host and manage and start and stop and import and export and migrate multiple collections of services bundled within containers.

I've received a number of questions about the "hardware assisted" containerization slide in my deck.  We're under confidentiality agreements with vendors as to the details and timelines for these features.

What (I think) I can say, is that there are hardware vendors who are rapidly extending some of the key features that have made cloud computing and virtualization practical, toward the exciting new world of Linux Containers.  Perhaps you might read a bit about CPU VT extensions, No Execute Bits, and similar hardware security technologies.  Use your imagination a bit, and you can probably converge on a few key concepts that will significantly extend the usefulness of Linux Containers.

As soon as such hardware technology is enabled in Linux, you have our commitment that Ubuntu will bring those features to end users faster than anyone else!

If you want to play with it today, you can certainly see the primitives within Ubuntu's LXC.  Launch Ubuntu containers within LXC and you'll start to get the general, low level idea.  If you want to view it from one layer above, give our new nova-compute-flex (flex was the code name, before it was released as LXD), a try.  It's publicly available as a tech preview in Ubuntu OpenStack Juno (authored by Chuck Short, Scott Moser, and James Page).  Here, you can launch OpenStack instances as LXC containers (rather than KVM virtual machines), as "general purpose" system instances.

Finally, perhaps lost in all of the activity here, is a couple of things we're doing different for the LXD project.  We at Canonical have taken our share of criticism over the years about choice of code hosting (our own Bazaar and, our preferred free software licence (GPLv3/AGPLv3), and our contributor license agreement (Canonical CLA).   [For the record: I love bzr/Launchpad, prefer GPL/AGPL, and am mostly ambivalent on the CLA; but I won't argue those points here.]
  1. This is a public, community project under
  2. The code and design documents are hosted on Github
  3. Under an Apache License
  4. Without requiring signatures of the Canonical CLA
These have been very deliberate, conscious decisions, lobbied for and won by our engineers leading the project, in the interest of collaborating and garnering the participation of communities that have traditionally shunned Canonical-led projects, raising the above objections.  I, for one, am eager to see contribution and collaboration that too often, we don't see.