Monday, 05 December 2016 11:08

Canonical to sue cloud provider over Ubuntu images

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Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution, has said it plans to sue an European cloud provider for distributing unofficial images of its cloud distribution despite several warnings.

The company offers certified cloud images of Ubuntu that are guaranteed to run on specific cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure or Google.

Performance is optimised and integrated with underlying cloud requirements, with input from the host's cloud engineers.

In a blog post, Ubuntu owner Mark Shuttleworth said his company was in dispute with an European cloud provider that had breached its contract and was publishing insecure, broken Ubuntu images.

He said Canonical made the same certification commitment to the Ubuntu images customised for the cloud that it did to the public releases.

"This provides a universal promise of performance, stability and security while imposing no premium cost on users of those images. You, as the user, get it free, but it takes a lot of work to get it right, and Canonical holds those pieces together, in partnership with the clouds," he wrote.

Shuttleworth said the home-grown images on the cloud, VPS and bare metal services of this provider disabled fundamental security mechanisms and modified the system in ways that were unsupportable.

"They are likely to behave unpredictably on update in weirdly creative and mysterious ways (the Internet is full of fun examples). We hear about these issues all the time, because users assume there is a problem with Ubuntu on that cloud; users expect that ‘all things that claim to be Ubuntu are genuine’, and they have a right to expect that," he said.

Some of the ways in which the images distributed by this provider had violated Canonical's own standard was by creating operational and security nightmares for users.

"Clouds have baked private keys into their public images, so that any user could SSH into any machine; clouds have made changes that then blocked security updates for over a week; clouds have confused users with image- or kernel-soup, and users have been pushed into building their own images; VMs have had changes that resulted in very slow boot or poor performance; unstable kernels that disable features Ubuntu packages expect to be there; and many more.

"When things like this happen, users are left feeling let down. As the company behind Ubuntu, it falls to Canonical to take action," Shuttleworth said.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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