A new, transactionally updated “snappy” Ubuntu Core

Canonical

Canonical

on 9 December 2014

Today we’re announcing “snappy” Ubuntu Core, a new rendition of Ubuntu for the cloud with transactional updates. Ubuntu Core is a minimal server image with the same libraries as today’s Ubuntu, but applications are provided through a simpler mechanism. The snappy approach is faster, more reliable, and lets us provide stronger security guarantees for apps and users – that’s why we call them “snappy” applications.

Snappy apps and Ubuntu Core itself can be upgraded atomically and rolled back if needed – a bulletproof approach to systems management that is perfect for container deployments. It’s called “transactional” or “image-based” systems management, and we’re delighted to make it available on every Ubuntu certified cloud.

“Ubuntu Core provides transactional updates with rigorous application isolation,” said Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and Canonical. “This is the smallest, safest platform for Docker deployment ever, and with snappy packages, it’s completely extensible to all forms of container or service. We’re excited to unleash a new wave of developer innovation with snappy Ubuntu!”

You can try the snappy Ubuntu Core alpha today, first on the Microsoft Azure cloud. KVM images can be downloaded for local Linux desktop development. We’re also delighted that Ubuntu Core is featured in the Qemu community advent calendar, as a special seasonal surprise from Ubuntu!

“Microsoft loves Linux, and we’re excited to be the first cloud provider to offer a new rendition of one of the most popular Linux platforms in the rapidly growing Azure cloud,” said Bob Kelly, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft. “By delivering the new cloud-optimised Ubuntu Core image on Azure, we’re extending our first-class support for Linux and enabling freedom of choice so developers everywhere can innovate even faster.”

World-leading security

Snappy applications are confined by Canonical’s AppArmor kernel security system, which delivers rigorous MAC-based isolation and human-friendly security profiles. In snappy editions of Ubuntu we can isolate applications from one another completely, just as we do on the mobile phone, making it much safer to install applications from a wide range of sources on your cloud deployments.

Bullet-proof security means we can empower developers to deliver applications to users even faster, because a mistake or a security problem in one application is much less likely to result in problems for other applications. Uploads of snappy apps need no review, so updates are instantly available for users everywhere.

Safe, reliable updates

Snappy also delivers much more reliable updates, which means you can update your servers on the cloud faster and more confidently, fixing security problems automatically. When we update a snappy application we backup all your data before the update and rollback if the update fails for any reason, so your system is never in an incomplete state. Updates are guaranteed to succeed every time, and users can rollback to previous versions just as efficiently.

We set out to build a framework for perfect, worry-free updates so that the latest software with the best security can be deployed automatically on millions of cloud hosts, keeping the internet safer and protecting your valuable applications and data. Snappy is the very best way to deliver the benefits of Ubuntu and the open source community, creating a trustworthy platform for scale-out computing.

Amazing developer experience

Creating snappy Ubuntu apps is much easier than traditional packaging, simply bundle all the files you need in a single package and publish, then users can download it instantly. Snappy packages can be statically linked and include their own copies of any file they need. Developers can use the exact library versions they want, and they get to control when those libraries are changed, or use the core system libraries from Ubuntu if they prefer.

There is no need to become an Ubuntu developer or to comply with complex packaging rules in order to publish applications for Ubuntu, anybody can publish any application, easily and instantly, to a global audience.

Designed for Docker

Docker is the developer’s favourite new tool, the best way to deliver applications straight from the workstation to the cloud. And a majority of those developers choose Ubuntu as their base operating system, with more than six times the adoption of the next most popular platform. Snappy Ubuntu Core makes an even crisper host for Docker deployments.

Ben Golub, CEO of Docker Inc, says “Docker’s transactional application delivery is shaping modern application development and DevOps practice, and snappy Ubuntu promises to bring the same transactional updates to the operating system itself. We’re delighted to see the Docker ecosystem expand with this exciting new platform.”

Easily extensible with frameworks

The base Ubuntu Core is deliberately tiny – this makes it more secure, and more general. Rather than force users to adopt a particular tool, we offer frameworks that extend the base system cleanly. Frameworks can be provided by any vendor in collaboration with Canonical, and they can provide services to applications that depend on them. Docker is the first framework for Ubuntu Core.

How does it work?

The genesis of Ubuntu Core is our mission to perfect system and application updates on phones – we created the snappy technology and application confinement system to ensure a carrier-grade update experience for Ubuntu mobile users and set a new standard for application security in the mobile era. Ubuntu Core brings that technology to the cloud.

  • The OS and application files are kept completely separate, as a set of distinct read-only images.
  • Transactional, image-based delta updates for the system and applications.
  • These files are read-only, which means they cannot be tampered with and can be updated perfectly and predictably every time.
  • Signatures and fingerprints ensure you’re running exactly what was published by the developer, no funny business even if the bits came from the internet.
  • Delta management keeps the size of downloads to the bare minimum.

Snappy architecture

There are three layers that make up a snappy machine: the system layer, provided by Canonical, a layer of frameworks that extend the base system produced by vendors in collaboration with Canonical, and a set of snappy applications, provided directly by vendors. Updating any piece just means using the new version of a read-only image, reverting to a previous version is just as easy.

Now in alpha preview

Ubuntu Core is the smallest, leanest Ubuntu ever, perfect for ultra-dense computing in cloud container farms, Docker app deployments or PAAS environments. Core is designed for efficiency and has the smallest runtime footprint with the best security profile in the industry: it’s an engine, chassis and wheels, no luxuries, just what you need for massively parallel systems.

This is the smallest Ubuntu, and also the biggest revolution in Ubuntu since we launched our mobile initiative. Combining carrier-grade updates and security with cloud leadership is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the internet, and the cloud, a safer place. We hope you’ll try Ubuntu Core for your next Docker project on Azure, and look out for further announcements of snappy goodness on a cloud near you.

Ubuntu is already the world’s favourite platform for cloud computing. Now it gives you the best management and cleanest upgrade path for a commercial platform, ever. All free for developers, with enterprise support and management tooling available from Canonical. That’s why the world chooses Ubuntu for the cloud.

Updates

You may also find useful perspective on Ubuntu Core from these blogs:

See more on the website here.

Try the new, snappy Ubuntu yourself! 

Ubuntu Core is available as a KVM image for local development on Ubuntu, and as a cloud image on Azure.

Internet of Things

From home control to drones, robots and industrial systems, Ubuntu Core and Snaps provide robust security, app stores and reliable updates for all your IoT devices.

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