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Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus Linux Gets Snappy

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted April 20, 2016

Canonical is set to formally release its Ubuntu 16.04 Linux operating system on April 21, providing new desktop, server and cloud capabilities.

Ubuntu 16.04, also known as the Xenial Xerus release, is a Long Term Support (LTS) edition, providing five years of support. Canonical only releases new LTS updates every two years, with the last LTS being the 14.04 "Trusty Tahr" update in April 2014.

"This release is special because it's an LTS, so not only do we support it for the next five years, but it becomes the foundation upon which many Ubuntu 16.04 LTSenterprises of all shapes and sizes build their IT infrastructure and products," Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical, said on a press conference call announcing Ubuntu 16.04.

On the desktop side, a key innovation in Ubuntu 16.04 is Snappy, which is a transactional packaging system for applications that actually first debuted with the non-LTS Ubuntu 15.04 update in April 2015.

"Snaps run alongside the traditional deb packaging format," Silber explained. "The advantage of Snaps is that it allows us to bring newer apps sooner to users."

With Snappy being a transactional update system, only the delta, that is the difference between what is already installed and what's new with the application and its libraries, is updated, which makes for a faster upgrade experience. Additionally, Snappy enables better application isolation policies, which in turn provide better security.

For developers, Canonical is including the Snapcraft tool, which makes it easy for people to build, develop and distribute snaps.

Server Enhancements in Ubuntu 16.04

On the server side, Ubuntu 16.04 is noteworthy for a number of reasons, including the integration of the LXD 2.0 virtualization technology. Canonical first started talking about LXD in November 2014 as a hypervisor-type approach for running containers securely. Technically, LXD provides a secure system daemon for LXC (Linux containers).

"LXD looks like a virtual machine, and it acts like a virtual machine, but it's actually a container," Anand Krishnan, EVP and GM of Cloud at Canonical, said.

By leveraging containers as opposed to a traditional VM, the promise is increased performance as well as density, since containers, unlike VMs, can make use of the host's operating system to enable applications.

Ubuntu 16.04 will also support the ZFS (zettabyte file system) that was first developed by Sun Microsystems for use with Solaris Unix. ZFS has also been integrated with the FreeBSD operating system and has been further developed by the OpenZFS effort in recent years.

"With Ubuntu 16.04 we have worked with OpenZFS, and it is now a kernel module," Krishnan said.

From a cloud perspective, the new OpenStack Mitaka release is integrated with Ubuntu 16.04. OpenStack Mitaka, which provides improved cloud management capabilities, was first released on April 7 by the upstream OpenStack community.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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