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Ubuntu Kernel Tuned for Better AWS Performance

Ubuntu Linux, the most popular platform used on the Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) cloud, now performs better, according to its distributor, Canonical.

The company last week announced it has fine-tuned the Ubuntu kernel to run better on the AWS cloud, claiming it has increased kernel bootup speeds by 30 percent, along with other benefits including a smaller kernel package.

The London-based company said it has been working with AWS -- which has provided Ubuntu for years among its many Linux distros -- to improve "the world's most popular cloud OS, on the world's most popular public cloud."

That claim is supported by many studies naming AWS the No. 1 cloud provider, and by statistics provided by The Cloud Market that list the breakdown of platform distributions used on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) Web service. The Cloud Market data indicates Ubuntu is the underlying platform for 56.4 percent of the 371,132 images available on EC2.

According to the AWS site for Linux distributions, "Ubuntu is popular because of its robust user interface; you can easily work with Ubuntu from desktop or from the command line. Ubuntu is a favorite platform for Linux stacks; AWS has hundreds of application stacks and application servers based on Ubuntu."

As of March 29, developers and others using those hundreds of application stacks and application servers based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and provided via an EC2 Quickstart or the AWS Marketplace should see better performance, according to Canonical.

"This week, and for the first time on the public cloud, Canonical, in collaboration with Amazon, is delighted to announce the availability of an AWS-tuned Ubuntu kernel for the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS release," Canonical's Udi Nachmany announced in a blog post last week.

Nachmany outlined the following highlights of the AWS-tuned kernel:

  • Up to 30 percent faster kernel boot speeds, on a 15 percent smaller kernel package.
  • Full support for Elastic Network Adapter (ENA), including the latest driver version 1.1.2, supporting up to 20 Gbps network speeds for ENA instance types (currently I3, P2, R4, X1, and m4.16xlarge).
  • Improved i3 instance class support with NVMe storage disks under high IO load.
  • Increased I/O performance for i3 instances.
  • Improved instance initialization with NVMe backed storage disks.
  • Disabled CONFIG_NO_HZ_FULL to eliminate deadlocks on some instance types.
  • Resolved CPU throttling with AWS t2.micro instances.

According the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS - Xenial entry on the AWS Marketplace, it comes in a free version along with three for-pay options that provide various levels of support and other services.

Nachmany said instances using the AWS-tuned Ubuntu kernel will be supportable under the company's Ubuntu Advantage service, but they won't support the Canonical Livepatch Service, which lets developers apply critical kernel patches without having to reboot.

"Investigation is underway to evaluate delivery of this service for users of the AWS-tuned Ubuntu kernel," Nachmany said. "If, for now, you prefer stability over speed, you can get still get going with Livepatch by reverting to the old kernel."

Developers who want to investigate the nitty-gritty details of the version 4.4.0-1013.22 kernel underlying the AWS-tuned Ubuntu distribution can go to the linux-aws kernel package site.

AWS also supports many other Linux distros, including CentOS, Debian, Kali, Red Hat and SUSE.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for 1105 Media.