Promoting Lucid Testing using KVM

Dustin Kirkland kirkland at
Mon Nov 9 13:40:06 GMT 2009

On Sun, Nov 8, 2009 at 3:27 PM, Matt Zimmerman <mdz at> wrote:
> Rick, Marjo and I are actually hoping to take this a step further in Lucid
> by making it possible to do this in the cloud, instead of locally in KVM.
> We've already done this for Server Edition, where you can start an EC2
> instance using any daily build without even downloading anything.
> We want to make the same experience possible with Desktop Edition.  No
> downloading ISOs, no installation, just the latest development code running
> on demand.

I agree that testing in the cloud would be interesting.  But does this
obviate enabling users to test on their local hypervisor too?

I mean, if some user is running a Karmic desktop/laptop with KVM,
perhaps they would rather rsync the daily ISO locally, and testdrive
it in a VM.

I see three drawbacks with running a desktop image in the cloud:
 1) cost -- users would need to pay real money to do this
 2) performance -- VNC over the WAN can be painful
 3) experience -- to run in EC2, we're going to need to bundle an
image, which will be similar, but not identical to the LiveCD ISO

Certainly from a developer's perspective, I need multiple fast virtual
machines running locally at any given time; the cost of running every
VM I need in the cloud would quickly eclipse my EC2 budget, and the
performance impact of VNC over the internet would make this simply

> We get a tremendous amount of feedback and testing of Desktop Edition during
> development, but we could do with more early user testing of server
> milestones.

Tremendous feedback on the Desktop Edition -- sure, agreed.  But
enough?  There's a vocal minority of users that trash every Ubuntu
Desktop release in the days just before and just after every release.
I'd like to remove some of the barriers that prevent them from
providing the constructive feedback they have within the windows when
can do something about it.

>  I think a cloud solution is even more compelling for servers,
> since they're command-line operated.  Why download hundreds of megabytes of
> OS, and spend time installing it, when you just to see it running for a
> little while?

A cloud-based solution is definitely more compelling for server.
Remove the arguments I have above regarding VNC, as SSH access is
certainly sufficient.  And I agree that we need more server testing.
Testdrive, though is geared more toward desktop testing which, I
believe, isn't yet well suited to testing in the cloud.

As for downloading hundreds of megabytes, I implemented testdrive to
use a cache, and rsync/zsync where possible, so these downloads should
be incremental in many cases.  If your ISO is up-to-date, you can
launch over and over and over again at zero network cost.

> That's interesting.  I wonder what the performance is like for a typical
> broadband user.

I keep a daily updated ISO mirror locally, so I can boot and run any
ISO over my gigabit LAN as if the ISO were local to the hard drive.
Really nice, in that I don't have to keep a dozen ISOs on my laptop.

I have tried this feature at coffee shops too.  It's functional,
though admittedly slower.  It is faster than downloading the whole
ISO, though, which is nice.  I can point KVM at an HTTP url and start
booting the ISO much quicker than waiting the 1.5 hours wget told me
it would take to download from said coffee shop.


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