Review: Ubuntu LTS 16.04.02 has a long shelf life

Ubuntu server is available in a range of options to fit organizations of different sizes

Review: Ubuntu LTS 16.04.02 has a long shelf life

Ubuntu is one of the most popular versions of Linux, with a very substantial market base, especially in the cloud.

The server is friendly to OpenStack, making it desirable to those who want to use it in public and private cloud deployments.

For this review we looked at Ubuntu LTS 16.04.02, a stable release using the Linux 4.4 kernel that is supported for five years. For administrators, this means access to bug fixes when needed, but without the major release updates that may introduce instability in mission-critical operating environments.

+COMPARE: Check out reviews of these other Linux server distros: SUSE Linux Enterprise Server; Red Hat Enterprise Linux; Oracle Linux; Fedora Server, and see Review: 5 top Linux distros for enterprise servers, an overview of these comparison reviews.+

If you use OpenStack, note that Ubuntu is a dominant player, with over 50% of the market in large, 1,000-plus core, installations. Ubuntu offers several paths to get started with OpenStack, from fully managed on-premise installations to self-installs using Canonical’s OpenStack Autopilot to build a production cloud. Of note to Windows shops, there is also a Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS version that is certified to host Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2008 R2 guests under its Microsoft’s Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP).

For those seeking to use the public cloud, Ubuntu provides certified images for most providers, including Azure, Google, AWS and Rackspace. Ubuntu's Metal as a Service (MAAS) provides for the transformation of physical infrastructure into a cloud. MAAS can be used with existing DevOps tools such as JuJu and Salt, and supports Windows, Ubuntu, CentOS, RHEL and SUSE.

Installing Ubuntu

The default installation method for Ubuntu is an ISO that can be used to create DVD or USB flash drives. The ISO can also be used to install and run as a virtual OS. There is also a network installer available for instances where a DVD/USB installation is not feasible. The system requirements for a basic installation are definitely on the lighter side with 512MB RAM, 1GHz processor and 2GB of hard-drive space, although this configuration would not be adequate for anything except minimal testing.

Ubuntu uses a slightly dated DOS-like installation interface, but while lacking in visual appeal, it gets the job done. We note that it would be nice to have an installation option that allows you to select all the settings up front and let the installation proceed automatically, especially since our install was fairly slow, taking upwards of an hour on a multi-core server with more than adequate resources and a gigabit Internet connection.

Ubuntu management

There are several options for managing the server. You can use the command line; you can install a GUI like Webmin or you can choose the flagship Ubuntu Landscape management tools, a Web GUI that allows you to manage, deploy and monitor literally thousands of Ubuntu servers.

Given the growing popularity of remote administration options, we suspect for most installations the Landscape manager is going to be the best choice. Landscape can be used in three different configurations: an on-premises version, Landscape Dedicated Server (LDS) that is free for up to 10 servers, a Software as a Service version that charges one penny per hour per server, and the Ubuntu Advantage solution, which includes Landscape as one of its features. Advantage also includes the OpenStack Autopilot feature that allows administrators to build, deploy and manage OpenStack cloud architectures.

We tested the on-premises LDS version of Landscape first. Installation is launched from the command line and takes just a few minutes. Once installed, we were able to access the Landscape Web GUI from a browser. The features are similar across all versions of Landscape, hosted or on-premises. Landscape lists all registered servers, and you can manage one or multiple servers at once. On the monitoring side, Landscape provides built-in graphs that display variables such as CPU load, memory usage, disk space usage and server temperature. Another feature we found very useful is the ability to install, update and even roll back packages on servers. Landscape will alert you to servers needing updates, and you can deploy updates immediately or schedule them for a future time.

While the Ubuntu server itself is free to use, there are costs associated with some of the aforementioned tools and features. The option most likely used in an enterprise setting would be the Ubuntu Advantage for servers. This gives users access to the Landscape online management console, live patching, the Ubuntu Assurance program and various support options. The cost is either $750 or $1,500 per server per year, for the Standard and Advanced options, respectively. Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is available for purchase on USB stick from the online Ubuntu shop. LXD Linux container hypervisor enhancements including QoS and resource controls (CPU, memory, block I/O, storage quota). Linux 4.4 kernel and systemd service manager.

Ubuntu in the enterprise

There are not many things not to like about Ubuntu server. As mentioned before; we wish the install was a bit more streamlined and modern. Also, the cost of support can add up in a hurry if you have multiple server instances, virtual or physical. On the plus side of the ledger, in addition to performing well as a regular file, Web or database server, Ubuntu has also emerged as a leader in the cloud. Although reliable statistics can be hard to come by, it seems safe to posit that Ubuntu has the largest market share of all OSs in the cloud. The five-year ‘shelf life’ of LTS versions makes it easier to evaluate, approve and deploy in enterprise environments. Moreover, we found the various Landscape management options to be very solid and a major selling point for Ubuntu.


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