Linux distribution will provide a direct path to public cloud platform

Cloud computing in the open source environment receives a boost later this week with the inclusion of direct support for a cloud platform within one of the most popular Linux distributions.

Linux Ubuntu 9.10 will ship on Thursday with software from Eucalyptus, which runs a host platform compatible with Amazon’s EC2, S3 and EBS interfaces.

Eucalyptus (short for Elastic Utility Computing Architecture Linking Your Programs To Useful Systems) is a project that was initially backed by the National Science Foundation to investigate approaches to large-scale grid applications. The founders, working at UC-Santa Barbara, decided that to reach its full potential, the system needed to behave more like a Linux “tool” from the system administrator’s perspective, rather than a separate platform.

It raised $6.5 million in a Series A round of financing and signed Eli Lilly and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab as clients. The Ubuntu release is its first major step toward reaching a broader customer base.

The VCs are Benchmark Capital (which has invested in Bebo, MySQL, OpenTable, Second Life, Tellme, Yelp, and Zillow) and BV Capital (whose portfolio includes Angieslist, del.icio.us, gotomypc, and shopping.com).

Ubuntu is providing cloud services at both the desktop and server level. In the client software, a service called Ubuntu One will synchronize files stored on different machines and back them up on a hosting platform; Ubuntu’s backer, Canonical will support this service, charging monthly hosting fees that begin at $10/month. In the server edition, Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud software runs on the Eucalyptus engine and directs administrators to Eucalyptus’ services where setup and professional services contracts begin at $499.

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