Ubuntu the challenger?

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When it comes to using Linux on an enterprise server, Ubuntu is generally seen as the new challenger in a market dominated by established vendors specifically targeting enterprises. However, we are seeing signs that this is changing. The W3Techs data showing Ubuntu’s continued growth as a platform for online scale-out infrastructure is becoming well known, but a more recent highlight is a review published by Network World of five commercial Linux-based servers (note registration required to read the whole article).

The title of the review “Ubuntu impresses in Linux enterprise test” is encouraging right from the start, but what may surprise some readers are the areas in which the reviewers rated Ubuntu highly:

 

1. Transparency (Free and commercially supported versions are the same.)

This has long been a key part of Ubuntu and we are pleased that its value is gaining broader recognition. From an end user perspective this model has many benefits, primarily the zero migration cost of moving between an unsupported environment (say, in development) and a supported one (in production). With many organisations moving towards models of continuous deployment this can be extremely valuable.

2. Management tools

The reviewers seemed particularly impressed with the management tools that come with Ubuntu, supported with Ubuntu Advantage: Metal as a Service (MAAS), for rapid bare metal provisioning; Juju for service deployment and orchestration; and Landscape for monitoring, security and maintenance management. At Canonical we have invested significantly in these tools over the last few years, so it is good to know that the results have been well received.

Landscape Cloud Support

Landscape Cloud Support

3. Cloud capability

The availability of cloud images that run on public clouds is called out as being valuable, as is the inclusion of OpenStack to be able to create an OpenStack Cloud. Cloud has been a key part of Ubuntu’s focus since 2008, when we started to create and publish images onto EC2. With the huge growth of Amazon and the more recent rapid adoption of OpenStack, having cloud support baked into Ubuntu and instantly available to end users is valuable.

4. Virtualisation support

It is sometimes thought that Ubuntu is not a great virtualisation platform, mainly because it is not really marketed as being one. The reality, as recognised by the Network World reviewers, is that Ubuntu has great hypervisor support. Like some other vendors we default to KVM for general server virtualisation, but when it comes to hypervisor support for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Ubuntu is far more hypervisor agnostic than many others, supporting not only KVM, but VMware ESXi, and Xen as well. Choice is a good thing.

Of course there are areas of Ubuntu that the reviewers believed to be weak – installation being the primary one. We’ll take this onboard and are confident that future releases will deliver an improved installation experience. There are areas that you could suggest are important to an enterprise that are not covered in the review – commercial application support being one – but the fact remains that viewed as a platform in its own right, with a vast array of open source applications available via Juju, Ubuntu seems to be on the right path. If it continues this way, soon it could well cease to be the challenger and become the leader.

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