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Ubuntu founder pitches new tool for server provisioning

Metal as a Service (MAAS) will allow administrators to add new servers via a Web interface

Ubuntu developer Canonical is working on a new provisioning platform called Metal as a Service (MAAS), which will be used to activate new servers, on top of which a cloud can be deployed, founder Mark Shuttleworth said in a blog post on Wednesday.

The way computing systems are built is changing. Instead of big boxes, the future belongs to clusters consisting of "hyper-dense racks with wimpy nodes," according to Shuttleworth. More power is added by adding more nodes to clusters, rather than buying beefier nodes, and reliability is improved by doubling up, so services keep running when individual nodes fail, he wrote.

However, the benefits of these systems will only be realized if the management can be done efficiently and that's where MAAS comes in, according to Shuttleworth.

Using a simple Web interface, MAAS will allow IT administrators to deploy and manage servers dynamically, just like cloud instances -- only in this case, they're whole physical nodes, he said.

The easiest way to get up and running with MAAS is on a network that the user has control over, according to the MAAS wiki. Besides that, the user must be willing to give MAAS control of that network's DHCP, and have a fresh Ubuntu 12.04 LTS installation on a server that can be dedicated to the management platform.

From the Web interface, administrators can boot a new machine and install Ubuntu. For that to work, the server has to be configured to wake-on-LAN and PXE boot.

Once at least two nodes have added been added, administrators can also start using Ubuntu Juju, a next-generation orchestration framework, on top of the servers. Using prepackaged so-called charms users can automate the deployment of new applications.

As of Ubuntu 12.04, Juju is considered beta, and isn't yet ready to be used in production, according to an FAQ.

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is scheduled to be released on April 26.

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