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Ubuntu Released a Version with Customized Kernel for AWS

Posted by Augusto Alvarez on April 18, 2017
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Linux virtual machines in a cloud service like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure have become a very common practice. You can find pretty much anything that you need regarding Linux applications, including appliances or even PaaS technologies that actually work with Linux in the backend. Now Ubuntu has decided to go a bit further than that and offers an OS version with a customized kernel for AWS.

Ubuntu with Amazon Web services

Udi Nachmany, head of public cloud at Ubuntu/Canonical, announced in an April 5 blog post that Ubuntu virtual machines for Amazon will include an AWS-tuned kernel. And what’s the benefit? The AWS-tuned kernel offers up to 30 percent faster kernel boot speed over a stock Ubuntu Linux kernel running in AWS.

The tuned kernel also takes direct advantage of AWS’s Elastics Network Adapter (ENA). The ENA technology first became available on AWS in June 2016, providing high throughput of up to 20G bps for virtual instances.

ENA was introduced as a standard in large instances types for Amazon’s EC2 as the “Next Generation of enhanced networking”. These Elastics Network Adapters work with hardware checksums, multi-queue support and receive side steering.

The following is a sample diagram of AWS ENA interfaces and the integration with company’s network:

AWS ENA interfaces diagram

Amazon and the Linux AMI

The Amazon Linux AMI is a supported and maintained Linux image provided by Amazon Web Services for use on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). When ENA debuted it was supported inside of the Amazon Linux AMI by default.

The Amazon Linux AMI is loosely based on Red Hat’s Fedora community Linux project. Now Ubuntu users will be able to easily and directly benefit from ENA as well.

Amazon Linux AMI logo

The AWS-tuned kernel in Ubuntu also offers the promise of increased I/O performance as well as improved AWS storage handling capabilities.

While Canonical is providing support for the AWS-tuned kernel, it will initially be missing at least one capability that the non-AWS kernel benefits from: “The AWS-tuned Ubuntu kernel will not support the Canonical Livepatch Service at the time of this announcement, but investigation is underway to evaluate delivery of this service for users of the AWS-tuned Ubuntu kernel,” Nachmany wrote.

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Augusto Alvarez
Augusto Alvarez
Augusto is currently working as Principal Consultant in Dell EMC, originally from Argentina and now based in the US. His role currently is designing customer requirements into specific systems and processes; also performing technical briefings; leading architectural design sessions and proofs of concept. Augusto is also the author from two published App-V books: “Getting Started Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.6” and “Microsoft Application Virtualization Advanced Guide”.