When it comes to cloud computing -- which Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has earmarked as a major focus for Canonical in 2013 -- one of the Ubuntu ecosystem's most innovative projects is JuJu, a solution for deploying cloud services. JuJu is already mature and useful, but Ubuntu developers envision expanding on it in major ways in the new year, as evidence from mailing archives and Canonical announcements reveals.

Many of the pieces of Ubuntu's cloud platform are based on upstream projects, like OpenStack. But JuJu is developed by Canonical directly to aid in the orchestration of cloud services. Using "charms," IT staff can deploy a variety of popular services -- like MySQL, WordPress and MediaWiki -- on Ubuntu-based virtual servers in the cloud with a single click or command.

Currently, the JuJu "charm store" -- an app store of sorts for the Ubuntu cloud -- offers 113 individual charms for Ubuntu 12.04, the most recent longterm-support (LTS) release of the operating system. Non-LTS versions, which server administrators are less likely to want to use in production environments because of their relatively short support lifecycles, have fewer charms available.

JuJu Innovation

In recent months, Ubuntu developers added significant new functionality to JuJu with the introduction of a graphical interface for the platform. While a text interface remains available, the JuJu GUI adds point-and-click simplicity to open-source cloud orchestration.

But JuJu innovation doesn't end with the GUI. As Ubuntu developer Jorge Castro outlined recently, the JuJu development team envisions several significant enhancements to the platform that should make it a more robust and attractive component of Ubuntu's comprehensive suite of cloud tools. In particular, he hopes to see the following enhancements:

  • system for rating the quality of each charm in a number of categories, such as reliability, security and scalability. With quality ratings, administrators will be able to identify more easily the charms that best fit their needs.
  • A clearer method of explicating exactly which version of the underlying software application a given charm will deliver. Since some charms are based on Ubuntu's own tested packages of particular applications while others can pull their code from upstream sources, notifying users of the source of the charm software will help alleviate security concerns.
  • Improvements to JuJu documentation, which so far has "merely been adequate."
  • Extending JuJu's flexibility so that charms work not only with OpenStack-based clouds, but also with individual servers. This will mean, actually, that JuJu would grow beyond the world of the cloud, and become a tool for deploying popular services on any kind of Ubuntu server.

Of course, JuJu developers are eager for any and all volunteers willing to help turn these visions into reality. And since the breadth of applications covered by JuJu charms is pretty substantial and likely to increase further, there are many areas in which open-source developers or channel partners could potentially contribute to the project, helping to build an even more robust cloud ecosystem around Ubuntu.