When it comes to servers you have a number of operating systems to choose from. When using a shared or dedicated server from a hosting provider your options are a bit more limited, yet still enough to keep your mind spinning. So which one should you choose? Well lately there’s been a lot of buzz around the new open-source operating system called Ubuntu (oo-BOON-too). Ubuntu is built on Linux and like many other Linux based systems, it’s free. One of the major advantages in running an open-source operating system is community support. While Ubuntu is relatively new, it’s gained large amounts of support from the industry and has rapidly built one of the largest open-source communities in the world, and with good reason.
While the reasons could literally fill a book, I’m going to focus on those which I feel are most relevant in setting Ubuntu apart from its competitors.
Open source tools
Arguably one of the biggest benefits of running an open source product is the community support. Ubuntu is no different with a huge community base that’s growing by the day. This community, like many others, is self-supporting when it comes to bug-tracking and Q & A. By running an open bug-tracking system anyone has the power to run a bug report, help others with problems, or propose any ideas they might have. That’s quite typical of course, but this tracking system is unique in that it has tightly integrated developer and translation tools within a single website making it possible to create unique relationships among users and developers.
Ubuntu also has an open policy rule wherein each process is discussed and published across the wiki and all mailing lists. In affect, this open-door policy gives users great piece of mind and allows them to track certain events as if they were part of the internal Ubuntu team. Call it a sense of belonging if you will.
No licensing or maintenance fees
Another great benefit of an open source product is the cost. Getting something this great for free has to make even the greatest of skeptics giddy. In addition to an initial cost of nil, the administrative and upgrade costs could actually lower your stress level. Ok maybe that’s a stretch, but since upgrades are routine and scheduled, there’s no need to worry about when to upgrade and how it’s going to happen; or how you’re going to pay for it. Once you’ve setup Ubuntu, the ADT (advanced packaging tool) will allow you to receive automatic updates that are reliable and fully controllable, so you can worry about one less thing. In addition, programs can be easily packaged and published to a local repository as a separate manageable entity making future builds a snap and less costly.
Automated upgrade management
Managing upgrades can be not only a cumbersome process, but an expensive one. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve upgraded a server with a new release in our shop, only to spend days sometimes weeks working through compatibility issues. This can turn out to be a huge effort and a cause for considerable anxiety when the time to upgrade rolls around. Since the evolution of your system is a near necessity, you need a product life-cycle that supports it; and does it well. The Ubuntu life-cycle ensures system upgrades can be performed time and time again without compromising the work you’ve already put in place. This upgrade management solution is one of the pillars of Ubuntu’s success, providing seamless upgrades from one release to another.
Regular and reliable release cycle
Ubuntu has a standard release cycle that you can rely on for regular updates. With a dual release cycle, releases are sent out every 6 months and include the latest packages and updates (security updates are released every 18 months). This is maintained for 18 months from the release date with an upgrade path to the next 6 month release version. Beyond that, every two years an LTS version is released and maintained for 5 years. This release schedule provides the community with stable versions that they can count on and plan for. When you can get a release schedule like this that’s expected and provides seamless upgrades from one version to another, your overall costs will inevitably be reduced.
It’s always nice to know that the most prominent languages in the world of web and server development are supported. Below is a list of those compatible languages.
- PHP 5
- Ruby on Rails (community supported)
- Java – Sun Open JDK (community supported)
In addition, Ubuntu provides database support for the following
- DB2 (supported by IBM)
- Oracle Database Express (community supported)
Service deployment has always been an Achilles heel of the server world, but now with the typical deployment of a fully secured and configured set of standard services taking no more than 15 minutes, Ubuntu provides ease-of-use and efficiency. Currently, there are a wide range of critical services that can be deployed in this manner for mail, web, DNS, file serving or database management. Also available at setup is LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP).
If you’re like me, you may be wondering how Ubuntu can make simplicity out of such complex and mind-numbing tasks. The main reason is because the folks at Ubuntu take a unique approach in how packages are delivered. See, the basic configuration and integration work is actually done before installation. This way, the user needs only to select which option they want as opposed to accepting the entire gammet of options.
The Ubuntu operating system has a wide variety of benefits and features that people across the globe are realizing each and every day. Most do not know however, that many of these features can be traced back to its roots of being built on the solid foundation of Debian. Debian has a historic reputation for providing the most robust server installations on earth along with a strong track record in the areas of reliable performance and predictable evolution. Given Ubuntu’s golden roots, it’s easy to see why it’s seeing so much success, and even easier to see how the creators have positioned it for the future.