Ubuntu 16.04 LTS packs a lot of punches for enterprise customers

The latest LTS release of Ubuntu introduces 'Snaps' that may change the Linux landscape forever.

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Canonical has announced the latest LTS release of Ubuntu -- 16.04. Canonical develops two version of Ubuntu -- regular releases that are supported for 18 months and LTS releases that are supported for 5 years. The newest LTS release, Ubuntu 16.04, comes with many new features for enterprise customers. Among the most notable is the arrival of ‘Snaps,’ a new package format for applications on Ubuntu.

Canonical wants to own the enterprise with a snap

Snaps is a much needed fix for application packaging and delivery problems on Linux. Snaps come with all dependencies and libraries included so it really doesn’t matter which version of dependencies and libraries are installed on a system. As a result, developers can take advantage of latest libraries and packages to add new features and functionality without having to worry about compatibility with the libraries installed on the system.

Snaps also allows developers to deliver apps and updates directly and instantly to users, instead of waiting for weeks and even months. Snaps offers a much more secure mechanism than PPAs. The greatest advantage of Snaps is security through app containerization. These apps are sandboxed so they are much more secure than traditional apps.

I feel Snaps can change the Linux desktop the same way that Docker images have changed the cloud landscape. When I asked Canonical about it, Anand Krishnan EVP & GM Cloud and Jane Silber CEO told me, “Snaps are certainly an exciting new way to deliver software FAST to the cloud and elsewhere. It’s likely that Snaps will be more useful for shared software, while docker images are more useful for in-house software. Snaps are also simple to integrate because they represent only a single application stack rather than an entire file system, and we see them changing how quickly and easily developers are able to deliver their software, its dependencies, and subsequent updates directly to users and customers of that software.  There is a very nice pathway straight from Github, into a Snap, and then onto perhaps millions of devices or cloud instances. So, in short, there’s room for both technologies, and quite possibly ways to make them useful together, but it’s too early to see how they interact in the field.”

Snaps is a relatively new technology and most enterprise customers are not even aware of it. But, Canonical has been working on Snaps for a while now and they are also taking steps to make it easier for developers to package their apps as Snaps. Canonical has developed a new tool called “Snapcraft” to easily build and package applications from source and existing Deb packages.

Getting high on LXD

The second most exciting feature of 16.04 release is the arrival of LXD, a pure-container hypervisor. LXD is more or less a like a virtual machine (VM). It runs like a VM and it works like a VM. The only difference (and it’s a huge one) is that it runs on bare metal.  As a result, it eliminates that 15-20 percent overhead that you would get from a VM.

LXD sits somewhere between a VM and Docker. There are many customers who need a virtual machine because Docker is not an ideal solution everywhere. That’s where LXD shines as a container for bare metal.

Canonical claims that LXD delivers 14x the density and substantially greater speed for Linux guests compared to established traditional virtualization.

OpenStack and LXD

Ubuntu holds the No. 1 position in OpenStack deployment, according to the latest OpenStack Foundation survey. Ubuntu 16.04 comes with full support for OpenStack Mitaka, the latest release of OpenStack. As a result, customers will be able to take advantage of all new features of the latest OpenStack, including features like live migration and enhanced security.

Canonical states that using LXD as a hypervisor for OpenStack brings greater density of workloads with lower latency than any other cloud infrastructure in the market today. “This offers significant benefits for companies doing time-sensitive work on cloud infrastructure, such as telco network-function virtualization, real-time analytics of financial transactions, or media transcoding and streaming. It also provides significant improvements to the cost of infrastructure for organizations with large portfolios of idle guest workloads,” said the company in a press release.

Arrival on LinuxONE

SUSE beat everyone else for IBM’s LinuxONE system. But with 16.04, Canonical is bringing Ubuntu to IBM’s Z and LinuxONE systems. Ross A. Mauri, general manager, IBM z Systems and LinuxONE says. “With the release of Ubuntu 16.04, IBM will be able to offer our LinuxONE, z Systems and Power Systems clients a simple, affordable high-performance Linux distribution that will better equip them to take advantage of [the] hybrid cloud.”

Now LinuxONE customers will be able to use Ubuntu along with SUSE and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). The only flip side is that Canonical won’t be participating in IBM’s flexible, cloud like pricing for LinuxONE system to make it more affordable for smaller customers. Canonical will have a flat fee for LinuxONE systems.

Where is Ubuntu heading?

Ubuntu is often seen as the only Linux vendor that’s investing heavily in both the consumer and enterprise space. But with 16.04 it’s quite clear where the desktop is heading -- enterprise is the focus area, at least for the LTS release. Through technologies like Snaps, Ubuntu will trickle down into the desktop and mobile space. So what’s the roadmap for Ubuntu?

Krishnan said that when Canonical thinks of features and roadmap, it thinks of two things: One:) what are the scenarios where customers are pushing the envelope on scale out and how do we better support them; Two: What are the platform that are coming into the world of scale out how does Canonical continue to support new platforms.

And the latest release clearly reflects these two focus areas. Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is available immediately for free download. 

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