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Ubuntu 14.04: Is Canonical taking on too much?

Tom Henderson | July 15, 2014
Some hits and some misses as Canonical tries to cover everything from the smartphone to the desktop to the cloud.


The recent release of Ubuntu 14.04 Long Term Support/LTS (Trusty Tahr) proves to us once again that it doesn't matter if you're Oracle, Microsoft, or Canonical: Bringing a fleet of products into new release revision synch is tough.

Canonical's twice-a-year Ubuntu releases are boldly trying to cover the bases of cloud, server, desktop, smartphone/tablet, plus management and support and services add-ons specific to each platform.

In this release, Cloud and Server get much attention; Desktop not so much. And the Ubuntu smartphone/tablet bits aren't reviewed here as there are no "production" versions in the wild. Cross-CPU family support between x86/x64 and ARM processors appears to be complete and level, although this is difficult to test.

Canonical isn't shy about including teaserware in its releases — not ready for production apps that attempt to give a lift to features Canonical supports in Ubuntu. In this round, the big one is Docker, and the great hope that LinuX Containers (LXC) might put a serious dent into Type 1 virtualization schemes. Like prior Canonical teaserware initiatives, this wasn't ready for production at product release time, and even Docker.IO warned that it wasn't ready for production. Magically, Docker went from 0.6 to 1.0 in one rapid leap, about the time Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 (Red Hat is a major Docker supporter) went live.

The reality is that the new 14.04 Ubuntu cloud, server, and desktop editions are highly evolved and ready for work, albeit with only a handful of new features rewarding a download and install for mere casual observation. Roll-up features from 12.10-13.10 are included.

There may be more Ubuntu instances in public clouds than anywhere else, some living for a very short amount of time, others much longer, as is the nature of transience in public cloud offerings. Certainly in this release, the highest amount of attention Canonical has paid is visible in the Cloud and Server Editions.

The smartphone/tablet offering moves into the category of "looking for partners," in an era when Google, Microsoft, and even Mozilla are breathing down Canonical's neck. The names of partners for Ubuntu Cloud/Server is impressive. Smartphone/tablet partnerships seem to be lagging. And as before, Canonical has added "trialware" balloons to most editions.

Canonical faces very tough competition from its principal rival, Red Hat (and its burgeoning community), and the ever-stodgy SUSE—not to mention its desktop rivals, Microsoft and Apple. We believe, however, that promoting applications that are clearly non-production quality (Docker) is dangerous, even if they're "revolutionary".

Cloud v. Server
If you blinked a few times, you wouldn't see much change in the 13.10 to 14.04 server releases, as most items are software updates to existing packages — but as a group they receive Long Term Support. These deploy using the Metal-as-a-Service (MAAS) app we've described in prior Ubuntu Server edition reviews.


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