Ubuntu Server: The Linux Server Operating Systems Dark Horse

By Kenneth Hess (Send Email)
Posted Mar 11, 2010


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Everyone has heard of Ubuntu Linux and how great it is on the desktop, but have you heard that there's a server version of that same uber-cool operating system? There is, and you should know about it. Ubuntu Server not only follows the same twice yearly updates (April and October) as its desktop counterpart does, but it also benefits from unsurpassed commercial support, consulting and training available through Canonical.

With Red Hat Enterprise Linux leading the charge of Linux server operating systems in the data center, Ubuntu Server has some catching up to do. But don't count it out.

In the race to the data center, you might feel like you don't have room for yet another Linux-based operating system, but Ubuntu is different from the current No. 1 choice: It's free. You purchase support for it only if you need to or want to. And, the upcoming version, due for release next month, 10.04 LTS, is the long-term support version, making no time better than the present to connect with Ubuntu Server. Long-term support means that, should you select Ubuntu Server 10.04 for your data center needs, it's fully supported for five years after the release date. Canonical releases an LTS version every two years.

Ubuntu Linux Server's Differentiator

So, what is it that sets Ubuntu apart from its competitors? First, Ubuntu's parent Linux distribution is Debian. Debian, otherwise known as Debian GNU/Linux, has a faithful following due to its stability, its apt-get packaging system and its commitment to free software as defined by the Free Software Foundation.

Second, Ubuntu has a dedicated (paid) development force behind it and a worldwide community of contributors who work together to update and maintain its code and security updates. This should give you comfort that bugs, security flaws and enhancements will come rapidly and regularly to protect your systems and the data they collect and store.

Third, you have the assurance from Canonical that your systems have 24x7 support available in case of failures or errors that require their assistance. You can rely on their expertise and rapid response for those mission-critical workloads when you need it most.

Finally, Ubuntu is easy to install, maintain and upgrade. You can complete installation in 15 minutes or less on server class hardware. Linux is stable and requires little maintenance or daily upkeep. Reboots are rarely required, making it the perfect platform for those zero-downtime applications and services. Ubuntu upgrades easily from the command line through a distribution upgrade command or via a boot to the latest CD image that maintains your previous installation and settings.

Ubuntu's Cloud Computing Capabilities

Ubuntu Server also offers a unique feature: Cloud computing capability. There's a special version of Ubuntu Server available that's known as Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC). Used within your own data center, UEC provides immediacy and elasticity by allowing you to deploy workloads and have them instantly available. Using UEC, you can grow or shrink capacity on an as-needed basis. You can have your own private cloud running in less than an hour.

For the adventurous, UEC uses the same APIs as Amazon's EC2, so you can build applications in your own private cloud and deploy them to Amazon's cloud for public consumption with no changes needed. You can also "burst" your applications to leverage additional computing resources from Amazon's EC2 when necessary.

If you must make quick decisions about which operating system to install, Ubuntu Server or UEC, you can make the choice when you boot the CD image, since both options appear for you.

Ubuntu Linux server vs. Red Hat Enterprise Linux

Of the three major commercially supported Linux distributions, Red Hat had the jump on the others as the first American company to build on Linux as its sole product. It quickly became the darling of the Linux community and gained ground as a major force in the software industry. SUSE Linux, now owned by Novell, started its life in Germany where it gained popularity as a desktop and server operating system alternative to Microsoft's Windows. Ubuntu is a relative newcomer to the Linux game, but it consistently holds the top spot as the most popular Linux distribution for desktops.

Ubuntu Server and UEC have begun to catch on in a market dominated by Red Hat and SUSE. As our economy limps toward recovery, more CXOs will discover Ubuntu Server and its ability to lower TCO by avoiding the licensing fees and maintenance costs of competing distributions. Ubuntu adopters also reap the benefits of having a worldwide community to monitor security and other flaws as well as a dedicated support staff constantly working toward making a great product even better.

Ubuntu is like an addiction that, once you've partaken, is hard to break. To demonstrate this point, on LinkedIn.com, the professional networking site, the Ubuntu group has well over 10,000 members, which is by far the largest for any Linux distribution. But Ubuntu isn't just about its avid following of zealots. It also melds outstanding performance with easy installation and excellent hardware support. Add those features to its superior commercial support, long-term support commitment and unique cloud computing platform, and you have a formidable rival to its entrenched competition.

Keep an eye on Ubuntu, it's likely to be a photo finish for this dark horse.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which is scheduled for publication in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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