Every two years, Canonical releases a new "long-term support" version of its Linux operating system and on April 29, it will release the next one, 10.04 LTS, according to Gerry Carr, head of platform marketing for Canonical. Named for the month/year of its release, it will include a Desktop Edition as well as a Server Edition and with the latter, Canonical believes it is ready to replace whatever competitor (Linux, Windows or Unix) you've got on your servers now.
While most folks are talking about the new features in the desktop version (a more attractive GUI, faster boot time, social goodies like 2 GB of free cloud storage), I hopped on the phone with Carr and asked him what's in it for the enterprise? Is Ubuntu ready to take on Red Hat and Novell?
I was sure that he would say yes, although he was not forthcoming with figures as to how many enterprise users the company already had.
I was still fairly apt to believe him given the giant vote of confidence Dell just gave Canonical. In March, Dell announced that it would support Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud hosted with Eucalyptus Software as part of Dell's brand-spanking new cloud service initiatives. Canonical's Mark Murphy, Global Alliances Director blogged about it:
"Dell announced a comprehensive overview of its enterprise strategy. Significant in its announcement, was the addition of Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) as an infrastructure solution, joining the proprietary offerings from VMware and Microsoft. This is the first major offering of a true open source Cloud solution backed by a major corporate vendor."
Specifically, you can buy a Dell PowerEdge server pre-installed with the Ubuntu cloud options, and get additional support from Dell for it. So Ubuntu scored Dell while Red Hat scored IBM's cloud a few weeks earlier.
Carr came armed with statistics as to why Ubuntu is ready for your data center garnered from a recent survey of 2,650 of its own Server Edition users. Here are some of the survey's more interesting facts:
- 78% said that they plan on using more Ubuntu.
- Ubuntu isn't the only Linux they use, but they do choose it for 80% of the Linux servers they run.
- In the largest organizations, hundreds to thousands of servers, all of them run more Windows servers than they do of any other operating system, but not by a wide margin. (See graphic below).
- Users most often named databases, backups, file servers (Samba/NFS/FTP/other) mail servers and security/firewalls as their mission critical apps.
- Interestingly, about half of respondents, 54%, said they were already using some form of cloud computing, with 231 calling it a mission critical app. Oddly, only 10% are using a public Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud such as Amazon EC2, with 20% planning on using a public cloud within the next 12 months.
- The majority of these Ubuntu users, 60%, say that the ability to use a private cloud is most important.
- 72 of these Ubuntu users say they feel that Ubuntu Server Edition is ready for their mission critical apps.
It's perhaps no surprise, then, that the big news in 10.04 is its support of "the private cloud."
That's a term that is odd to me, in that it really means more automation coupled with server AND storage virtualization. A few years back we were calling this concept "utility computing."
As mentioned, Ubuntu 10.04 is integrated with Eucalyptus Systems's provisioning software. Even if you don't buy a pre-configured and optimized Dell PowerEdge, turning a Ubuntu server farm into a "private" cloud is easier. Carr says it takes a few mouse clicks. Components are automatically discovered and registered.
But of course, if you want help, Canonical wants to sell it to you, and is ramping up its professional services, to do so.
If you simply want good old fashioned server virtualization, Ubuntu uses KVM, like Red Hat (and soon Novell SLES).
KVM is lighter weight and better supported, says Carr, though he agrees that Xen certainly has its upsides. The Xen code is owned by Citrix, and Citrix's tight relationship with Microsoft, might be a turn-off for true-blue open source believers.
Carr says that Canonical did have some concerns when Red Hat became the code owners of KVM. But Ubuntu Server Edition users say the hypervisor is a popular, important feature to them. As for Hyper-V, Canonical hasn't become an officially supported option. But Carr contends that users can successfully run Ubuntu as a Hyper-V guest.
I'llnote, too, that Ubuntu has long been available as a "public cloud" operating system option on Amazon's EC2, too.
Besides the cloud, the 10.04 Server Edition has added other improvements for the enterprise over the last LTS release (8.04), says Carr, including:
- Tomcat can run Java apps
- Rabbit MQ message technology
- A Ruby development platform
- Spam protection, in the form of SpamAssassin
- The management tool Puppet, an add-on product not directly supported, has undergone lots of upgrades so that it lets you "easily manage a farm of Ubuntu servers as a single server," describes Carr.
- Latest versions of the LAMP stack.
All in all, it sounds as if Canonical is seriously trying to win your business. Will you give 10.04 a spin in your data center?
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