Canonical's Orange Box, the portable server cluster that the company intends to use to showcase OpenStack, MAAS, Juju and other aspects of the Ubuntu Linux-based cloud, is out. Here's what it's all about.

For starters, it's important to understand what the Orange Box is not: A revenue-generating hardware product from Canonical. The company has given no indication so far that it plans to sell these devices on a large scale—although if you truly want you can buy one, for the equivalent of around $12,900, from TranquilPC Limited, the company that has the contract for manufacturing them.

Primarily, the Orange Box is a tool for convincing enterprises to invest in the Ubuntu-based cloud. It's a key part of the Ubuntu OpenStack strategy that Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth outlined last month, especially the OpenStack training program the company is offering, called Jumpstart.

As part of Jumpstart, Canonical will loan an Orange Box to a participating organization so its employees can practice configuring OpenStack and related software on an Ubuntu cluster. Canonical staff also will provide consultation during the training period.

But training purposes aside, the Orange Box looks pretty cool. And with 10 Intel NUCs inside—packing a collective punch of 160GB of RAM, 1,200GB of storage space and 10 i5 CPUs—the device fits quite a bit of computing power into a tiny space.

Better still, the Orange Box comes preconfigured with software that provides a basis for launching Ubuntu-based cloud technologies.

For Canonical, however, the real test will be making sure enterprises take advantage of the Orange Boxes that the company lends them not just to poke around an unusual hardware device, but to experience the Ubuntu cloud in a truly compelling way—compelling enough to convince IT decision-makers to ground the next-generation cloud infrastructure that they are building in Ubuntu.