In association with heise online

Ubuntu Server has its head in the clouds

The Ubuntu Server edition of Precise is dominated by features geared towards cloud deployment. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS ships with the latest release of OpenStack, codenamed "Essex". The Canonical developers have also created a continuous integration test setup to test changes of OpenStack before rolling them out to the Ubuntu repositories. This Ubuntu-specific QA work should improve the stability of OpenStack when running on Ubuntu. To make it easier for users of Amazon's cloud offerings to switch over to OpenStack, Canonical has recently announced AWSOME (Any Web Service Over ME), which will be available in this release of Ubuntu Server as well. AWSOME provides a proxy service that can translate Amazon Web Services (AWS) calls so they are understood by OpenStack; this should ease the transition for users wanting to switch to OpenStack for their cloud infrastructure.

The new version of Ubuntu Server also includes Canonical's new MAAS (Metal as a Service) offering which provides provisioning services aimed at data centres. As low-powered ARM-based servers are starting to appear in the market, making it possible to deploy a cloud infrastructure over a great number of servers more cheaply, the idea behind MAAS is to provide an easy way to provision Ubuntu Server across many systems as quickly as possible. MAAS uses Juju behind the scenes which itself ships with many new deployment recipes, or "Charms". Formerly called Ensemble, Juju is Canonical's service orchestration tool which helps administrators to install and configure applications automatically on Ubuntu Server. Juju Charms can, for example, install a WordPress instance with all the required dependencies, automatically set up a database for it and even configure multiple databases for redundancy and failover purposes.


For a long term support release, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS includes quite a large number of changes overall, even if there is little that could be classified as revolutionary. The biggest new feature is certainly Unity's new HUD, but it remains to be seen how useful it will be in day-to-day application. Unity is still a controversial subject in the wider Linux community and among a sizeable contingent of Ubuntu users as well, but the changes delivered in 12.04 go quite far towards making Canonical's desktop stable and fast enough to be a serious competitor to the long-standing GNOME and KDE projects. With five years of support ahead for the desktop version, users looking for a long-term choice for a Linux-based desktop should seriously consider this latest release of Ubuntu. It remains to be seen, however, how viable this desktop will be in a few years. If Unity's rapid development speed doesn't slow down, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS most likely will look very dated by the end of its support period. In any case, Precise Pangolin is a solid update for desktop users.

On the server side, things actually look less conservative than usual for an LTS release, with many new features such as MAAS and AWSOME designed to bolster Ubuntu's cloud prowess. Mark Shuttleworth has recently been very bullish on the number of servers running Ubuntu and it seems obvious that cloud computing has become a major focus for Canonical. While it is not clear if his predictions will play out, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS has definitely laid some solid groundwork on which the developers can build in the coming years.

More details about the new Ubuntu version can be found in the release announcement and in the release notes for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. Images for the desktop and server versions of the distribution are available to download for 32- and 64-bit systems. For users who prefer not to use the Unity environment, Kubuntu provides a KDE-based variant, Xubuntu is based on Xfce, and users who prefer the LXDE environment can download Lubuntu. Additionally, the Ubuntu Studio and Mythbuntu derivatives provide specialised media production and media centre functionality.

See also:

Print Version | Permalink:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • submit to slashdot
  • StumbleUpon
  • submit to reddit

  • July's Community Calendar

The H Open

The H Security

The H Developer

The H Internet Toolkit