Google Dumps Custom Linux in Favor of Debian for App Engine
Google has made the switch from its own custom version of Linux, which they called “Google Compute Engine Linux” to more standard and generic, Debian Linux for App Engine. The switch syncs with the announcement of Debian 7.0 codenamed “wheezy” which brings significant new improvements and bug fixes as pushed by the community. The switch was announced last week on the Google App Engine blog. Google’s support for a standard version of Linux would ease down on compatibility issues and also increase its user base.
In addition to other benefits of the switch, Google will also tap into the massive Debian community which can now easily migrate their applications and solutions onto Google App Engine without going through nightmarish migration and compatibility procedures. According to Jimmy Kaplowitz who is a site reliability engineer at Google and a Debian developer, “We (Jimmy’s team) are continually evaluating other operating systems that we can enable with Compute Engine”. This statement suggests continuous lookout for more OS which may be a good fit, both from the technical and business perspectives, for the App Engine. Apart from Debian, Google also has support for CentOS which is the derivative of RHEL (Red Had Enterprise Linux) and perhaps the second most popular Linux distribution after RHEL in the enterprise world.
Even though Debian is not the first Linux distribution which supported the Cloud, it still stands out as a stable and secure distribution. The latest release, 7.0 “wheezy” comes out with improvements which are vital for deployment on any Cloud environment. Some of these include:
Support for OpenStack suite as well as XCP (Xen Cloud Platform) which gives users a choice to deploy their own cloud infrastructure. This will definitely be attractive for Google since there’s a momentum being built around OpenStack within the Cloud infrastructure community. In addition to using Debian on App Engine, you can also deploy your own private Cloud using Debian, thanks to its tight integration with OpenStack and XCP.
Support for s390x which is the 64-bit port of IBM System z machines
Stable support for 32/64 bit machines
Full Disk Encryption using geli. This is important, if not vital for any serious enterprise deployment.
A massive addition of around 12,800 new packages bringing the total to 37,493 packages which is by far, the highest number of packages available in any Linux distribution. One of the motivations behind this push for new packages was to get the status of “Universal Operating System”.
In order to ease the migration and deployment of your application stack on App Engine, Google has created its own Debian package mirror which may be used by Google compute engine Debian instances. Debian is definitely a pleasant addition to App Engine and indicates a move towards a standards based Cloud platform by Google.
By Salman Ul Haq