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Canonical punts Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope

Pre-Karmic Koala for netbooks, desktops, servers

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Canonical this afternoon debuted its Ubuntu 9.04 release of Linux, the tenth release since the company founded the Ubuntu project in October 2004. This iteration of Ubuntu, code-named “Jaunty Jackalope,” comes with mixes designed specifically for three platforms: netbooks, desktops, and servers.

Ubuntu is a normal release, meaning that it will eventually be replaced by Ubuntu 10.09 eighteen month from now (in October 2010). And even though Ubuntu 9.04 is not a so-called Long Term Support release — which provides tech support, patching, and security updates for three years on desktops variants and for five years on server versions — Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has pretty high hopes for it.

“It is an extraordinary release, and we expect it to be very popular,” said Shuttleworth in a conference call announcing the release. "We think it is our best release ever."

Ubuntu is reasonably popular on desktops and has a decent share of the netbook market, but is still a niche player in servers. And so you would expect Canonical to focus on its netbook and desktop variants of Ubuntu 9.04. But the server edition of the software, even if it is not an LTS variant, has a lot of features that some companies — those building server farms for hosting or cloud computing — are going to find interesting.

Ubuntu 9.04 is based on the Linux 2.6.28 kernel and includes the Gnome 2.26 graphical user interface and the X.Org 1.6 X windows server. The ext4 file system is supported in Ubuntu 9.04, but for Jaunty, ext3 remains the default file system. (With the “Karmic Koala” release that will come out as Ubuntu 9.10, ext4 will be the default, presumably).

Ubuntu 9.04 Desktop Edition includes expanded support for 3G and WiFi networks and smoother implementation for the suspend-and-resume features of laptops. The boot time for the operating system has also been dramatically reduced from 45 seconds down to 25 seconds. That time was based on the boot time of a Dell Mini 9 netbook, which is Ubuntu's reference platform. The Linux stack also includes support for the OpenOffice 3.0 office application suite, which didn't make it into the Ubuntu 8.10 release last fall.

A variant of Ubuntu 9.04 called the Netbook Remix tweaks and tunes the Linux stack for low-end netbook PCs, which have their own hardware and configurations. The Netbook Remix has been tested on a range of netbooks, including Acer’s Aspire One, Asus’ eeePC 900 and eeePC 1000, Dell’s Mini 9, HP’s Mini Mi, and Toshiba’s NB100.

On the server side, Shuttleworth said that he didn’t have any particular goals for Ubuntu 9.04 Server Edition in terms of the features it should include, but added that he saw “rapidly rising demand” for Ubuntu on servers and that the 9.04 release would keep the momentum going, even though it is not an LTS release. He said that some 45 different server platforms have been tested running the server edition of Ubuntu 9.04, including gear from IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba as well as from a handful of whitebox vendors (who, by the way, are often more enthusiastic about Ubuntu than the top-tier server makers. Top-tier server makers long ago pledged their allegiance to Red Hat's Enterprise Linux, with an occasional nod to Novell and its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server).

Shuttleworth said that HP is in the midst of going through a formal certification process for Ubuntu 9.04 on its servers (presumably a selected number of rack and blade servers) and would make an announcement that the software is certified to run on those x64 machines in the coming weeks.

Equally important for server shops is support for Java, and Ubuntu 9.04 is the first release from Canonical that fully supports Java and has passed the set of Java tests called TCK that prove it is compatible with the Java standard created by Sun Microsystems and the Java community it has spawned. Shuttleworth said that Samba 3.3 for Windows-compatible file and print services had lots of improvements and that the KVM virtualization hypervisor (which is now controlled by Red Hat) is the default hypervisor on the server.

Ubuntu is certified to run on VMware’s ESX Server hypervisor, and he said that it was in process to be certified on the vSphere virtualization stack and the ESX Server 4.0 hypervisor that is at the heart of it, which VMware will announce tomorrow. Ubuntu is also certified to run on hypervisors from Parallels and Sun (VirtualBox, to be precise), and Ubuntu 9.04 would be certified on these two in short order. Shuttleworth skirted a question on when Ubuntu would be certified to run on Microsoft’s Hyper-V or Citrix Systems’ XenServer, which presumably means it is not cold enough yet in hell, or customers are not asking for it.

The server edition is offering a number of previews, including the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC), which will be a cloud-friendly distribution of Ubuntu that will enable companies to build their own internal clouds, and ones that are compatible with Amazon's popular Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) public cloud. This cloud creation and management system is based on an open source project called Eucalyptus. (Yesterday, Canonical started offering Ubuntu instances on the real EC2 service, a capability that has been in beta since last summer).

The server edition now includes Sun’s MySQL 5.1 database (and can upgrade MySQL 5.0 on existing Ubuntu iron as part of an upgrade of the operating system) and also supports suspend and resume features on servers, which will allow companies to move workloads and shut down unused capacity to save energy and to turn machines back on when more capacity is needed.

Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook Remix, Desktop Edition, and Server Edition are all going to be available for download on April 23. You can get it here. The software is free, of course, but if you want commercial support, you have to buy it from Canonical. It costs $250 per year for 9×5 business support and $900 per year for 24×7 premium support on the desktop variant of Ubuntu. It costs $750 per year for a server to get 9×5 support, and $2,750 per year for 24×7 support. ®

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