Canonical, the company that distributes the Ubuntu flavor of the Linux operating system, is set to drop a new Long Term Support (LTS) version of its popular distro on April 29, 2010. Canonical will make its 10.04 distribution available for download on the Ubuntu Web site (Server version link, desktop version link). LTS versions are guaranteed to be supported by Canonical for at least five years.
Canonical has historically focused on the desktop Linux market, and its desktop product is the first version of Linux that I've ever thought my wife could have installed without having to call me into the room. This is a testament to the effort Canonical put into making Linux an OS that just works, without needing a technical expert to assist every step of the way. The GUI looks a lot like an older version of OSX, meaning it appears simple to use with menus that make sense and are fairly intuitive.
Canonical's new server offering (a new desktop version will release at the same time) appears to be squarely aimed at trying to wrest more market share out of the hands of its Linux competitors Red Hat and Novell, as well as the dominant small box player, Microsoft. It remains to be seen whether Canonical will be able to increase its server market share, but the list of improvements to the Ubuntu product is impressive and includes:
- Based on the hardened Linux 2.6.32 kernel
- Memory protection
- Module loading blocking
- Address space layout randomization
- Support for the newest Intel and AMD hardware.
- KVM and Xen for server virtualization (KVM only for host).
- AppArmor security turned on by default on key software packages.
- These applications: MySQL 5.1, Tomcat 6, OpenJDK 6, Samba 3.4, Nagios 3, PHP 5.3, and Python 2.6.
As with other Linux companies, Canonical provides its distribution free of charge and charges for support: $750 for a 9-5 business hour contract and $1,200 for the ability to contact tech support 24/7. This support is what makes Ubuntu (and Red Hat as well as other Linux vendors) a viable option for the enterprise.[Update on 4/29/10: Listen to TechRepublic's interview with Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth, who talks about 10.04, cloud integration, and Ubuntu on tablets.]
There are a variety of reasons why I have not used Linux much, but the primary reason is money. I have never been in an environment where we had the ability to hire people with Linux expertise, which tends to be more expensive than the equivalent knowledge of Microsoft products. I have never considered using Linux on the average user's desktop for many of the same reasons. However, due to recent events, I might be in a position to seriously consider Linux for our organization.
Our educational institution has been experiencing budget issues, and we have a ton of old hardware lying around. I hope that we can use this hardware rather than just surplussing it to Property Management, but I have to get buy-in from the users before I can make such a move. Assuming I can get people on board, I may start rolling out Ubuntu on select machines. If you've been through this type of migration, what was your experience? What do you think about the quality of Ubuntu support?