Every 24 months, Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system, delivers an enterprise Long Term Support (LTS) server release. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (aka the Precise Pangolin) is Canonical's fourth LTS release and introduces significant new features over the previous 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx) release.
The technology world has changed considerably in the last two years, and Ubuntu 12.04 LTS reflects those changes, particularly in terms of the cloud.
"The cloud is much more accepted and used now, while two years ago when we released Ubuntu 10.04 people were still looking at the cloud to see if it was relevant to them," Mark Baker, Server Product Manager at Canonical, told InternetNews.com. "There is also now a whole new category of applications that have come in the last two years around distributed computing environments."
On the cloud front, Ubuntu 12.04 includes the OpenStack Essex release. The OpenStack support is a shift from what Ubuntu 10.04 offered with cloud support via the Eucalyptus project. Ubuntu shifted away from Eucalyptus as its primary cloud technology in the 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" release.
The difference with 12.04 is that this is an LTS release, meaning that Canonical will support it for five years. Going a step further, Canonical has also pledged to backport support for the next four upcoming releases of OpenStack to 12.04, providing enterprise customers with the prospect of a stable operating system base.
"This allows customers to get access to the latest features of OpenStack without having to change their underlying platform," Baker said. "It's a change for us, since normally with things that are in an LTS release, we don't make commitments to supporting newer versions, but we've made an exception with OpenStack."
While OpenStack is now supported by Ubuntu's Linux rivals SUSE and Red Hat as well, neither of these vendors has made a similar commitment to providing long term support for release backports on an enterprise Linux distribution base.
Microsoft Support with Ubuntu 12.04?
Ubuntu 12.04 also will be the first Ubuntu LTS Linux release that features support for Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology. Baker noted that Ubuntu developers worked with Microsoft to enable the support; however, he stressed that the relationship was at a technical level only and that there is no existing business partnership between Canonical and Microsoft.
"This mean you can run an Ubuntu guest on Hyper-V if you so wish," Baker said. "We worked with Microsoft, which isn't something you'd assume we'd be doing, but it's our intention that Ubuntu 12.04 be the best guest in whatever environment you may be running on."
"If people want to run a Linux host on a Windows platform, we want it to be Ubuntu," Baker said.
Microsoft has been working with the Linux community in general over the last year to get Hyper-V support into the mainline Linux kernel as well.
Ubuntu 12.04 also improves on service orchestration with their Juju technology and the new Metal-as-a-Service (MaaS) approach.
"Through the experience of running on Amazon, we saw that traditional package management wasn't going to hack it for large-scale distributed environments," Baker said. "We started developing Juju to define the relationship between services."
Juju is about enabling the deployment of services in the cloud by way of Juju "charms," which define how the application should be configured and deployed. For the 12.04 release, Ubuntu worked with multiple Big Data and NoSQL vendors, including 10gen for MongoDB, Datastax for Cassandra and Cloudera for Hadoop, to develop Juju charms for their respective technologies.
When it comes to building out a bare metal service, however, Juju isn't sufficient on its own, which is where MaaS comes into play.
"MaaS is our attempt to provide a standardized way to bring server instances up," Baker said.
Enabling server administrators to manage and orchestrate server and application deployments at scale is an overall key focus in the 12.04 release. Steve George, VP of Communications and Products at Canonical, explained to InternetNews.com that the move from Ubuntu 10.04 to 12.04 is a focus on thinking about how system administrators can live and work in a world where they have large clouds in deployment.
"It's about the technologies that we can deliver to make system administrators more effective in that world," George said. "Both MaaS and Juju are all about delivering that great level of productivity to system administrators."