So I guess weâ€™ve officially entered a new era of lean and mean.
I say this with the announcement of Ubuntu Snappy Core, â€śdesigned for lightweight cloud container hosts running Docker and for smart devices,â€ť according to Canonical. â€śSnappy Ubuntu Core is the smallest Ubuntu available, designed for security and efficiency in devices or on the cloud.â€ť
This first version of Snappy Ubuntu Core features secure app containment and Docker 1.6 (1.5 in main release), is available on public clouds, and for ARM and x86 devices on several IoT boards.
Itâ€™s a Trend!
This announcement comes just as VMware announced its Project Photon, a Linux container OS that also follows the minimalist ethos. CoreOS and Project Atomic are other efforts in this area. Even Microsoft is joining the quest, with its Nano Server project for cloud computing and containers.
The folks at Docker approve, noting in a recent blog, â€śVMWareâ€™s announcement and other ecosystem announcements of this nature as being positive for the community because additional tools help to further liberate developers from the constraints of the infrastructure.â€ť
This is great, ironic stuff, in that as the IoT is introducing insane new levels of complexity in end-to-end computing infrastructures, the operating systems need to become much smaller. The underlying principle is taken from the world of single-purpose computing such as game machines--the days of the general-purpose PC with a bloated OS to manage any contingency seem to be fading into the mist.
Itâ€™s wonderful that the leading edge is now crisp and snappy, even as it evokes quintessential old-man talk and old-man knowledge--to wit, the Wikipedia entry under â€śminimalismâ€ť in computer science has this marvelous chestnut:
â€śIn the late 1970s and early 1980s programmers had to work within the confines of relatively expensive and limited resources. 8 or 16 kilobytes of RAM was common; 64 kilobytes was considered a vast amount and was the entire address space accessible to the 8-bit CPUs predominant during the earliest generations of personal computers. The most common storage medium was the 5.25 inch floppy disk holding from 88 to 170kB.â€ť
As one sharing a birthday (more or less) with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Scott McNealy, I heartily approve of this new trend. It has nothing to do with ancient stories of how tough it was in the old days--Bronko Nagurski was a heck of a football player, too--and everything to do with creating a lean, flexible, massively scalable, highly performant IT infrastructure for this century, not the century just past.