Virtualization Technology News and Information
Q&A: Interview with Canonical, Talking Snappy Ubuntu Core and the IoT Ecosystem
Very recently, Canonical made an announcement detailing Ubuntu Core on Internet of Things (IoT).  The announcement said the new Snappy Ubuntu Core on smart devices would deliver bullet-proof security, reliable updates and the enormous Ubuntu ecosystem - bringing the developer's favorite cloud platform to a wide range of internet things, connected devices and autonomous machines.

To find out more, I recently met up with Maarten Ectors, VP of IoT, Proximity Cloud and Next-Gen Networking and Dustin Kirkland, Ubuntu Cloud Solutions Product Manager and Strategist, both at Canonical Ltd.

VMblog:  Will Canonical's primary competitors in the cloud space now become competitors for the IoT space, with the introduction of Snappy Ubuntu Core on smart devices?

Dustin Kirkland:  Perhaps not. It would seem a little odd to call the Cloud "old news", but whereas the Cloud is pretty mature these days, we're in the absolute earliest stages of the Internet of Things.  Moving software, and especially the kernel, from virtual machines in the cloud to tiny devices is not a trivial effort.  It's taken years to develop the Ubuntu phone operating system, and converge that with our Cloud images and Cloud tools.  The result, though, is pretty magical!  The same Ubuntu that millions of users have come to love, and thousands of businesses have built production workloads around, on laptops, desktops, servers, and virtual machines in the Cloud, is now supported and available on headless devices.

Maarten Ectors:  Our main IoT competitors are those companies that are trying to go for the Linux space for IoT. You have the Yocto-based Linux players, as well as Android, and many new entrants. However, there is currently no other solution that combines apps, app stores, security and ease of management the way Ubuntu Core does, together with Ubuntu's familiarity, developer adoption, stability and lessons learned from powering 70% of the cloud.

VMblog:  How does Ubuntu Core for smart devices support the market for innovation in the IoT space?

Kirkland:  Ubuntu Core is the foundation for lots of innovation to be built on top and below in the IoT space. IoT developers did not have a clear way to make money from the outset. Early IoT startups had to invest heavily in reinventing tools, build custom operating systems, deploy solutions on top and automate updates. This extra legwork threatens their profitability.. Security is also a big obstacle for IoT companies. Hardware manufacturers did not have any economies of scale for the IoT, hence cost have remained high.

Ubuntu Core addresses these challenges because it separates hardware from software in such a way that hardware experts don't have to care about software, and software experts don't have to care about hardware. By enabling more specialization, we hope to see an end to great hardware being packaged with lousy software and vice versa. We also expect software to become a lot more secure with Ubuntu Core, because it can push security patches to smart devices automatically. This capability could patch the next Heartbleed or Shellshock automatically in hours. Additionally, hardware costs can drop substantially with a standardized platform like Ubuntu Core, enabling larger production volumes and economies of scale. The ultimate goal is for  developers building the next "IoT Angry Bird" for smart devices to easily monetize it. Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms will see a new generation of amazing IoT devices and apps that will surprise everybody. 

Ectors:  Ubuntu's pace of development, releases and innovation more closely aligns with the edge of technology than any other operating system.  Ubuntu makes tens of thousands of open source packages and libraries available every 6 months, and creates extremely high quality, stable releases every 2 years.  This blend of predictable, frequent, latest-and-greatest developer snapshot releases, as well as our production focused LTS releases has transformed the Cloud and Server industry, and we think it will do the same for IoT.  Snappy Ubuntu Core will ensure that inventors and innovators have the latest and greatest platform necessary to build their hardware, software and services, and ultimately a stable, secure, safe platform to ship user focused products.

VMblog:  What companies are a part of the Snappy Ubuntu Core partner ecosystem, and how are they benefiting from the new IoT offering?

Kirkland:  We have an early, non-comprehensive list of partners here:  And we have another exciting congregation of partners that will become public around the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this March.

VMblog:  As connected devices grow in popularity and begin to become commonplace, will the IoT space be a primary focus for Canonical as a company?  Or will cloud remain the primary focus?

Kirkland:  Why does it have to be one other the other? Canonical has built and maintained a powerful story around "convergence" for most of a decade now.  Ubuntu runs some of the largest supercomputers in the world (including Tianhe-2 in China), thousands of public and private clouds, countless web services, laptops, desktops, tablets and phones.  Devices are simply the newest, and perhaps most exciting, addition to that prodigious list!  Our secret plan is to continue building an amazing open source operating system and hardware/software/services ecosystem, and continue bringing the Ubuntu experience everywhere that has a CPU, storage and networking!

VMblog:  What use cases for Ubuntu Core are you seeing the most interest from developers for so far?

Ectors:  At the moment there are a lot of ‘Internet of Isolated Sensor Things.' For example, a scale that only talks to its phone app; a fitness wearable that only talks to its cloud; a smart light that needs to travel through the cloud to talk to the light switch 2 meters away. The most interesting use cases are really simple, about connecting different isolated islands together and taking things to the next level. Imagine, for example, if your scale shows a weight increase, your health wearable will set extra fitness goals, and your fridge won't open until you reach them.  

Kirkland:  It's just the tip of the iceberg now, but the communities developing robots and drones have been very vocal and interested.  There's interest in both the ARM and the Intel/AMD hardware space, for sure.

VMblog:  How can users get involved with or join the ecosystem, to begin building their own solutions?  

Ectors:  Snappy Ubuntu Core is open source, and everything is documented at Any IoT developer can upload Snappy Apps (a.k.a. Snapps) to the Snapp Store and share them with others. Innovative IoT companies can reach out to us and we will work with them and add them to the partner page. In case of questions, the community is available via the Snappy mailing list,, and IRC chat. Some technical walk-through materials are available at There are also a few 3rd party web tutorials and videos floating around, including this one:


Once again, thanks to Canonical's Maarten Ectors, VP of IoT, Proximity Cloud and Next-Gen Networking and Dustin Kirkland, Ubuntu Cloud Solutions Product Manager and Strategist, for taking time to speak with

Published Thursday, January 29, 2015 6:50 AM by David Marshall
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