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Ubuntu Server: Lean, mean, cloud-making machine

Canonical's Ubuntu Server 9.0.4 is a Linux distro well suited for VARs and OEMs

By Tom Henderson and Brendan Allen, Network World
June 01, 2009 12:02 AM ET

Network World - Ubuntu Server is a fast, free, no-frills Linux distribution that fills a niche between utilitarian Debian and the GUI-driven and, some would argue, over-featured Novell SUSE and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.


How we tested Ubuntu
Archive of Network World tests
Ubuntu Desktop: Plenty of sizzle, not much steak

In our business transactions benchmarking tests, Canonical's Ubuntu Server 9.0.4 was nearly as fast as the closest Linux cousin we've reviewed recently, Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11.

Ubuntu Server doesn't have a GUI. Instead, at installation, users have the choice of adding services, such as DNS, LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP), mail, OpenSSH, PostgreSQL database, print services, SAMBA and/or TomCat Java services.
Users can also configure the server as a svelte virtual machine or manually install server applications and utilities. The installation choices are offered through a simple 'VGA' (character) graphics menu.

Ubuntu Server also includes a version of Eucalyptus -- an open source tool for implementing Linux on public and private clouds. It's compatible with Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Simple Storage Service (S3) and Elastic Book Store (EBS).

Eucalyptus, based on an open source project at the University of California at Santa Barbara, is comprised of a cloud controller, a cluster controller and node controller. Together, various nodes (operating instances where the work actually happens) are tied together either in local or disparate server locations, according to the desired computational strength, and the needs of availability of the nodes to do actual work.

Since communication among the components uses SOAP, a commonly understood mechanism in application development, we found building clusters into our own cloud to be pretty simple.

OEM opportunities

These selections map to popular uses of Linux servers, and an 'OEM' installation can also be made that makes a distributable 'cut' of Ubuntu server for pre-installed application server deployments.

The OEM 'cut' can 'ask questions' of end-user installers in order to configure or setup the server via a text-based interface. Before this version, only UbuntuDesktop could use the OEM tools, as they were GUI only.

These considerations and options are reminiscent of far older VAR (value added redistributor/developer-sourced) versions of Xenix, UnixWare, and other i386/486 versions of Unix, and hints at the potential for this totally zero-cost Linux distribution.
In fact, the only thing you can buy is extended support, as the first 18 months of support are free. If 'free' wasn't enough, it's also possible to strip out (at installation) any installation of 'non-free' (closed source or non-GPL/Apache-licensed) software, which will make free open source software (F/OSS) purists tingle.

Ubuntu 9.0.4 is a headless server operating system that's best downloaded from one of many mirror sites and is delivered in the form of an ISO image. From there, it can be burned to media or installed by various virtual machine hypervisor installer applications. We tried both methods successfully.

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