Canonical Launches Ubuntu 8.04 with Long Term Support
Published: April 22, 2008
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
As expected and right on time, commercial Linux distributor Canonical this week launched its next iteration of Ubuntu Linux, dubbed 8.04 because it ships in April 2008. Ubuntu 8.04 comes in server and desktop variants, and is available with extended support, which Canonical calls Long Term Support and which guarantees that tech support and security patches will be available for five years on servers and for three years on desktops.
The updated Ubuntu comes just as the company is winding down support for the first and prior LTS edition of Canonical's Linux, Ubuntu 6.10 LTS, which we told you about a few weeks ago. Ubuntu is itself a tweaked version of Debian Linux; it is probably safe to say that Ubuntu is also the most important version of Debian Linux in terms of commercial servers, but Xandros would probably argue with that assessment, as would a few other projects. Anyway, it is the LTS part of Ubuntu 6.10 LTS that made Ubuntu's variant of Linux credible in the data center, and two years of use among some enterprises and now a much more sophisticated Linux offering will presumably make Ubuntu 8.04 LTS an even more popular choice.
Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical's founder and chief executive officer, said in announcing Ubuntu 8.04 that this is the company's "most significant release ever" and that the effort to create it took two years of sustained effort by Canonical, the Linux community, other related projects, and Ubuntu contributors.
Because enterprises like regularity--something that Unix and Windows releases have not historically provided--Shuttleworth made a commitment to get LTS versions and point release updates out the door like clockwork--something no other Linux distributor has committed to. He said that the original plan was to do LTS versions every 18 to 36 months, in essence going with the flow of the underlying projects and trying to make it as regular as possible. Rather than take that flexible approach, Canonical is going to get religious about schedules--and do so because it believes that regularity of updates is as important as providing enterprise-class tech support to corporate customers wanting to deploy Linux in their data centers. "We are now confident that we can deliver an LTS release every two years, like clockwork," bragged Shuttleworth.
As for point releases, the first one for Ubuntu 8.04 LTS will come out in July, but after that, releases will come out every six months. (The point releases are important because it is here that support for new processors or I/O features, as well as hot new application software, can be injected into the Ubuntu version. You can't wait too long to do these or you fall behind other distros, and you can't do it continuously or you will drive your customers nuts.) Shuttleworth added that the firmness of his commitment to regularize LTS versions at two years and point releases every six months could only be changed by one thing: If all of the other Linux distributors would commit to regular version and release schedules, he would tweak the Ubuntu schedule to get in phase with them.
Many of the features of Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server Edition, which has over 500 applications in it and over 20,000 applications that can be plunked atop it from the Ubuntu repository or other open source projects, have been reported on in this newsletter as they were being developed. But here is a brief recap. Like other commercial Linuxes, Ubuntu has spent a lot of time and effort embedding virtualization into its Linux variant, complete with tunings and optimizations. The standard Ubuntu 8.04 kernel assumes that you will want to run the Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor created by Qumranet to create virtual Linux slices on your machine. KVM partitions can run various Linuxes, Windows, and Unixes that have been created for X86 and X64 processors. (See this page for the list of guests that KVM supports.) Ubuntu 8.04 also has an alternate kernel that has been optimized for the open source Xen hypervisor controlled by Citrix Systems and thus far the preferred hypervisor used by Linux rivals Red Hat and Novell. There is also a stripped down version of the system called Ubuntu JeOS, which is meant to be the Linux to host software appliances that in turn run in VMware ESX Server or KVM partitions. And, of course, the full-blown Ubuntu 8.04 server edition can be run inside ESX Server partitions as well as on the desktop VMware Workstation hypervisor; the software is being certified for these hypervisors now.
Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server Edition also includes FreeRadius for authentication, Munin for monitoring, OpenVPM for virtual private networking, and Bacula for backup and archiving. The kernel has been hardened for security as well, and Novell's AppArmor policy-based application security software is loaded by default in Ubuntu 8.04 on the server; some elements of Red Hat's rival SE-Linux kernel security have also been added to Ubuntu. The software includes a firewall, support for iSCSI storage, and is upgradeable from the Ubuntu 6.06 LTS server edition.
The one thing that Ubuntu 8.04 does not have, by the way, is support for Sun Microsystems's multicore Sparc T1, T2, and T2+ processors. Ubuntu 6.06 LTS and Ubuntu 7.04 and 7.10, which were not LTS releases, did have support for the Sparc T1 processors, and both Sun and Canonical made a lot of noise about this at the time. But Sparc T processors are no longer part of the standard Ubuntu distribution, beginning with the 8.04 release. The Sparc T support has been put out to the same ports.ubuntu.com pasture where the Power processor support was put two years ago. So much for that experiment.
"Our relationship with Sun has grown," explained Shuttleworth, who says that Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server Edition has been certified to run on a number of Sun's "Galaxy" X64 servers. (Sun has stopped short of preloading Ubuntu on its machines, which is about the same limbo that Hewlett-Packard has placed Sun's Solaris in on its own ProLiant servers.) "There are many people who deploy Linux on Sparc, but we found that they either wanted to support Linux themselves, such as among HPC customers, or they wanted support from Sun." Well, maybe Sun should just buy Canonical and get it over with. They already give a paycheck to Ian Murdock, the co-creator of Debian. Might as well take over the biggest Debian Linux distro. . . .
While Sun has certified Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server Edition on some Galaxy machines, HP and Dell are just dipping their toes in the water and have committed to participate in a hardware enablement program with Ubuntu. This program allows joint tech support between the Canonical support team and their equivalents over at HP and Dell, but it falls short of full platform certification. Shuttleworth says that Canonical is obviously keen on getting mainstream server platforms certified to run Ubuntu or preloading it, but was careful not to slight in any way the tier-two players who already do this.
On the desktop front, Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Desktop Edition has the same basic technology, but is tweaked for desktop environments, meaning it is tuned for laptop and desktop iron and comes with other software features. For instance, the new Ubuntu has been certified to support IBM's Notes/Domino groupware, which should make it a viable option on tens of millions of desktops inside corporations. The new distro is also the first to put out the Mozilla Firefox 3 Beta 5 Web browser.
Both the server and desktop editions of Ubuntu 8.04 LTS are distributed for free, and will be available beginning April 24. A one-year contract for 9x5 business support for Ubuntu desktop costs $294 and for Ubuntu server costs $881, while a 24x7 contract costs $1,058 for the desktop and $3,819 for the server.
Ubuntu 6.10 Comes to the End of the Line
Canonical Ships Landscape System Management Tool for Ubuntu
Canonical Sets Ubuntu 8.10, Taps KVM Virtualization
How Is Ubuntu Doing as a Server Platform?
Ubuntu Hits Launch Target for 7.10 Linux Release
KVM Developer Launches as Qumranet with Desktop Virtualization
Canonical, VMware Create Skinny Linux for Virtual Appliances
Ubuntu Opens Up Development for LTS 8.04, Due in April 2008
Ubuntu Puts Out Fifth Alpha of Future Linux
Sun, Canonical Integrate Java, GlassFish, and NetBeans into Ubuntu
Canonical Updates Ubuntu Linux with 7.04 Release
Ubuntu to Support Linux on Sparc T1 Chips
Post this story to del.icio.us
Post this story to Digg
Post this story to Slashdot