Canonical Ltd. has released Ubuntu 8.04 Long-Term Support (LTS) of its open source OS for servers and desktops. The result is a strengthened kernel, new server capabilities and an expanded "ecosystem" of vendor affiliations, according to observers.
The server version, for example, adds integration to Microsoft's Active Directory and virtualization capabilities for the first time and improves networking, security, storage and firewall functions either directly or through partnerships. It also has been certified on several Sun Microsystems high-performance x64 servers and has begun preliminary "compatibility programs" with Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc., which are required before certification to affirm that Ubuntu runs on their hardware.
As the second LTS release, Ubuntu 8.04 guarantees five years of support, two years longer than the three-year industry average. By extending the term of support, data center managers get assurance that their Ubuntu systems won't become orphaned in a year or two, analysts said.
Gerry Carr, a spokesman for the London-based Canonical -- which provides commercial support for Ubuntu -- said the new version offers greater stability and provides new management tools for Ubuntu servers and desktops. These tools include the following:
- Network tools including authentication (FreeRadius, monitoring (Munin), VPN (OpenVPN) and backup (Bacula);
- Security (AppArmor);
- Storage options (iSCSI and Distributed Replicated Block Device);
- Active Directory integration (Likewise Open), and
- Virtualization hosting (KVM).
Through its recent addition of Landscape package manager, Ubuntu also includes centralized management, monitoring and upgrade capabilities.
On the desktop, Ubuntu has joined with IBM to add Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino groupware and messaging applications, respectively. Ubuntu has also added music, video and productivity features to the desktop.
Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk, a Denver-based consulting and research firm, said the new release is a continued evolution, with greater security, good virtualization and extended support, in addition to the added management capabilities of its Landscape package manager. All of these server features are of interest as Ubuntu's desktop continues to evolve, he said.
Ubuntu's shortcoming is its fledgling vendor network for secondary applications running on top of the OS, but its pacts with VMware Inc. and IBM Corp. demonstrate progress, he said.
Jay Lyman, an analyst at the 451 Group, said he was disappointed that Canonical didn't have pre-install deals yet with other hardware vendors such as HP and Dell but that he expected Canonical to work toward that goal in stages.
On the server side, version 8.04 is not a "blockbuster," but it's more stable, more secure and gets better performance, Lyman said. Together with its Landscape package manager and its popular desktop application, Ubuntu may create the positive synergy that generates greater acceptance of Linux in the enterprise, he said.
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