Ubuntu ready for big biz

The latest version of the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distro, launched on June 1, was designed specifically with large organizations in mind, says the open-source project's founder.

"Ubuntu has a reputation for working well out of the box on desktops, and we have worked to bring that same ease of deployment and configuration to the server marketplace," said Mark Shuttleworth, founder of UK-based Canonical, which sponsors the Ubuntu project. "Based on our analysis of the ways people were already deploying Ubuntu on servers, we have aimed to streamline their experience while expanding the range of software available to people deploying Ubuntu in the data center."

Previously code-named "Dapper Drake," Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (Long Term Support) is being billed as the first "ready for business" version of the popular Debian- and Gnome-desktop-based operating system. It is the first version of the OS available now in both desktop and server editions. It was designed to be easier to install, sports a new look and feel, and comes with an updated multimedia framework.

Ubuntu 6.06 LTS is the first version of the OS coupled with a long-term support cycle, Shuttleworth says, which includes free security updates and commercial technical support for 3 years on the desktop, and 5 years on the server. Support for previous releases included security updates and fixes for about 18 months. The longer support period is likely to appeal to more enterprises, especially those considering Linux as an alternative to Windows. But industry watchers expect Red Hat and Novell to continue to command the lion's share of the enterprise Linux market.

The new version also ships with Java packaged as part of the distribution. Java creator and current custodian Sun Microsystems has been working closely with the Ubuntu project. At last month's JavaOne conference, the Santa Clara-based systems company announced a new Linux-friendly license that was created in collaboration with Debian and Ubuntu developers. The new license allows OpenSolaris and Linux distros, such as Ubuntu, to take the binary bits from the JDK and repackage them as appropriate for the those systems, explained Richard Sands, community marketing manager for Sun's Java SE Platform.

Sun and Ubuntu have been working hand-in-glove as the open-source project broadens its offering from desktops to servers. Ubuntu 6.06 LTS is designed to support Sun's UltraSPARC T1 processor ("Niagara") on the Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 servers. "Ubuntu is arguably one of the most important—if not the most important—GNU/Linux distribution on the planet, and will soon blaze new trails in support for SPARC-based servers," said John Fowler, EVP of Systems at Sun. "The availability of both Solaris and Linux-based operating systems on the Niagara platform will further expand our lead in delivering chip multithreaded innovation and choice to customers."

Providing official support for SPARC was "a natural fit" for Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, Shuttleworth said. Canonical is also offering technical support for SPARC-based systems on a paid, commercial basis, starting at $700 per year for a single machine.

The Ubuntu Server Edition also comes with a mechanism for single-command set-up of a standard Web-server configuration using the so-called LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP).

Ubuntu is available free of charge and includes free security updates for all officially supported architectures.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].