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Ubuntu 16.04 kisses the cloud, disses the desktop

Tom Henderson | Sept. 7, 2016
Latest version of popular OS offers long-term support, beefed up features for OpenStack deployments.

With Ubuntu 16.04LTS (Xenial Xerus), Canonical has introduced incremental improvements to the popular server and cloud versions of its operating system, but if you were looking for exciting changes to desktop Ubuntu, this version isn’t it.

The 16.04 release is an iterative, not necessarily massive improvement. But this is an Long Term Service (LTS) version, which means that there’s a team working on keeping it solid for five years. So, into the next decade, 16.04 gets patched and fixed, as other versions continue to be released on a regular basis.

In this new release, Ubuntu further strays from the RedHat/SUSE/CentOS/Oracle school of software packaging by officially supporting an important new tool: Snap, a package manager.

Ubuntu is based on Debian, and any Ubuntu/Debian/LinuxMint user has finger memory to use `apt-get’ and `wget’ to obtain and install software. Canonical would rather you source through them, using Snap.

Snap can be used alongside the current Debian-friendly software package updating processes. It’s important to note that in order to install packages wrapped by Snap you’ll need an Ubuntu One account.

You might remember when Ubuntu One had personal repository features that were closed, but as a store, Ubuntu One never closed and that’s where Snaps will be examined and downloaded. We tried it and decided that it’s an improvement worth using, if you can tolerate the sense of being tracked.

The second major change is that Ubuntu now allows its installations to use supported ZFS and Ceph filing systems.

Invented by Sun prior to its acquisition by Oracle, ZFS was, at the time, a visionary replacement to a number of journaling filing systems, like Andrews Filing System, NTFS. It was thought to be a potential replacement for the ext3, ext4, and Reiser filing systems.

The idea was to prevent a number of maladies that caused systems failures, like power-interruptions during read/write processes, disk errors, storage cache errors, timing issues, and other disk and storage maladies.

While Apple was rumored to be implementing ZFS, they didn’t, and the FreeBSD community picked up ZFS — the OpenSolaris version — and used the port successfully in many NAS versions. A Linux port of ZFS followed the BSD port, and has been around for a while. The inclusion into Ubuntu gives it a seal of approval.

Cloud considerations

Ceph is a filing system of a different feather. Its first stable release coincides with the release of Ubuntu 16.04. What makes it different is that Ceph is not unlike software-based Reduced Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID) as a software service and filing system.

Ceph can store files and folders in the traditional desktop way, but Ceph can also store as a block device (e.g. arbitrary or standardized chunks of data) or data as objects — all of which are compatible with cloud computing.


PRODUCT Ubuntu 16.04 Cloud Server and Desktop Editions
PROS Strong server/cloud edition fleet/cluster advances; widely varied processor support
CONS Mir still absent, no big desktop changes


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