Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, today announced the launch of Anbox Cloud, a new platform that allows enterprises to run Android in the cloud.
On Anbox Cloud, Android becomes the guest operating system that runs containerized applications. This opens up a range of use cases, ranging from bespoke enterprise apps to cloud gaming solutions.
The result is similar to what Google does with Android apps on Chrome OS, though the implementation is quite different and is based on the LXD container manager, as well as a number of Canonical projects like Juju and MAAS for provisioning the containers and automating the deployment. “LXD containers are lightweight, resulting in at least twice the container density compared to Android emulation in virtual machines – depending on streaming quality and/or workload complexity,” the company points out in its announcements.
Anbox itself, it’s worth noting, is an open-source project that came out of Canonical and the wider Ubuntu ecosystem. Launched by Canonical engineer Simon Fels in 2017, Anbox runs the full Android system in a container, which in turn allows you to run Android application on any Linux-based platform.
What’s the point of all of this? Canonical argues that it allows enterprises to offload mobile workloads to the cloud and then stream those applications to their employees’ mobile devices. But Canonical is also betting on 5G to enable more use cases, less because of the available bandwidth but more because of the low latencies it enables.
“Driven by emerging 5G networks and edge computing, millions of users will benefit from access to ultra-rich, on-demand Android applications on a platform of their choice,” said Stephan Fabel, director of Product at Canonical, in today’s announcement. “Enterprises are now empowered to deliver high performance, high density computing to any device remotely, with reduced power consumption and in an economical manner.”
Outside of the enterprise, one of the use cases that Canonical seems to be focusing on is gaming and game streaming. A server in the cloud is generally more powerful than a smartphone, after all, though that gap is closing.
Canonical also cites app testing as another use case, given that the platform would allow developers to test apps on thousands of Android devices in parallel. Most developers, though, prefer to test their apps in real — not emulated — devices, given the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem.
Anbox Cloud can run in the public cloud, though Canonical is specifically partnering with edge computing specialist Packet to host it on the edge or on-premise. Silicon partners for the project are Ampere and Intel.