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Ubuntu Server Aims for the Enterprise

Ubuntu's Enterprise Aspirations Based on Long Term Support

  • March 24, 2010
  • By Sean Michael Kerner
New Canonical study of users provides some interesting insights as Lucid Lynx release looms.

Sean Michael Kerner

Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, is out with a new study this week looking at how users view and use their server platform.

The Ubuntu Server study comes at an opportune time as the next major release of Ubuntu codenamed the Lucid Lynx is scheduled for release at the end of April. The Lucid release is a major one for Ubuntu as it is the first Long Term Support (LTS) release in two years.

Typical Ubuntu releases come out every six months and have 18 months of support. Ubuntu LTS releases, however, come out every two years and provide three years of support on Ubuntu Desktop, and five years on Ubuntu Server. The last Ubuntu LTS release was the 8.04 release, codenamed the Hardy Heron which made its debut in April 2008.

The new Ubuntu Server study done by Canonical, received responses from 2,650 people and shows the relative importance of an LTS release over a regular non-LTS release. The study found that there were more users of the 8.04 LTS release than there were for the more recent 8.10, 9.04 and 9.10 releases. The most recent Ubuntu 9.10 release, codenamed the Karmic Koala.

"Ubuntu 6.06 LTS still shows considerable use, but it is the stand-out use of Ubuntu 8.04 LTS which tells the story of the acceptance and appreciation of this dual-release cycle amongst Ubuntu users," the Canonical report stated.

Critical and essential services

Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of respondents also noted that they consider Ubuntu to be ready to deliver critical server services. In terms of the features that respondents identified as being essential, they include backup, firewall, security hardening, storage support and systems management.

While Ubuntu Server is freely available for anyone to download and use, it is the availability of commercial support and certification that many respondents identified as being important.

"The availability of commercial application support for those applications from Canonical and partners are considered important to very important by almost two thirds of all respondents," Canonical's report stated. "This should bolster the efforts to expand the Ubuntu Server ecosystem of applications and supporting services for the products and applications."

Hardware support is also a key issue for server adoption. The study found that Ubuntu Server is currently deployed on server racks from HP, Dell, Intel and IBM. Those deployments are interesting for at least one key reason.

"At the time of this report, Ubuntu Server Edition did not come pre-installed on machines from any major provider," Canonical stated.

Ubuntu Server is used as a replacement for whatever the shipping operating system might have been. Canonical does however provide testing and certification in an effort to ensure proper hardware support.

The move for hardware certification and a wider ecosystem of partners is one that Canonical's new CEO Jane Silber told InternetNews.com in an in an interview earlier this month, will be a key area for announcements alongside the Lucid Lynx LTS release.

The Canonical study also asked a number of questions about the cloud which delivered some mixed responses. Over the next twelve months, 45 percent of respondents noted that they did not expect to increase their usage of infrastructure services in the cloud. In contrast, 20 percent did expect to grow their cloud usage and 35 percent had no answer.

Public versus private clouds

As to why respondents weren't growing cloud deployments, over 40 percent identified that security was a key concern and that their data was too valuable to trust to a third party. Those same security concerns fade away somewhat when users were asked about private cloud deployments.

In contrast, 65 percent reported that they had built a private cloud with Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC). The UEC offering first debuted as a preview in the Jaunty Jackalope Ubuntu 9.04 release in April of 2009 and has been included in every subsequent Ubuntu release.

While the Canonical study is flawed in a number of ways, Gerry Carr Head of Platform Marketing at Canonical does see value in the report.

"We use the survey to get a temperature check on what�s going on in the Ubuntu server user community," Carr blogged. "It is an imperfect polling method (basically self-selecting, survey in English only, etc) so we neither read it nor present it as a definitive statement either on what people use Ubuntu Server for, or what they want from Ubuntu Server. But, it sure is useful at showing trends."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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