The Linux Desktop Will Have Its Day: Q&A With Canonical Founder Mark Shuttleworth

Canonical founder and CEO Mark Shuttleworth, developer of the Ubuntuopen source operating system, announced in December that he wasstepping aside to develop cloud product design and curry new partners.

He named Chief Operating Officer Jane Silber to take his place as CEO.Several weeks ago, Silber announced the hiring of open source industryveteran Matt Asay to fill her old job as COO.

Canonical, the London-based commercial sponsor of the Ubuntu Linuxdistribution, set high performance standards with its commitment fornew distro releases for its popular desktop and server editions everysix months.

LinuxInsider discussed with Shuttleworth the rise of adoption ofUbuntu Linux and how Canonical is adapting to the demands of winningconverts from other operating systems.

Listen to the podcast (27:20 minutes).

Here are some excerpts:

Linux Insider: Given the growing reach of the Ubuntu server and desktop editions, what do you see as the driving factors for their acceptance?

Mark Shuttleworth:

I think the most powerful drivers of the historicaland wonderful adoption rate of Ubuntu have been the combination of therelentless focus we’ve put into the delivery of the system and theterms under which we do it. On the delivery front we recognize thatthe distributions play an important but ultimately quite a humble rolein the formation of the open source ecosystem.

People think of Ubuntuas Linux, or Red Hat as Linux, or they think of Debian as Linux. Butactually the real work gets done in many upstream communities. Thedistributions get a lot of credit. And our focus has been to reallytry to serve those upstream communities well by delivering their codeto users on a very predictable schedule with the highest levels ofquality and integration.

So what that means to users is they get on avery predictable schedule a high-quality drop of the very best ofwhat’s available from the open source ecosystem which they canembrace with confidence.

LIN: What about developers?


For the developers it means that their code landson peoples’ desks with us bearing the full brunt of interaction of endusers around that code. There is nothing stunningly insightful inthere. But by really focusing on the art of delivering a complete andeasy-to-use system, that represents the very best of what’s going on inthe ecosystem and is quite impartial in its assessment of that. Ithink we’ve really given users something that they really want.

LIN: What will take Ubuntu to the next level?


In terms of looking forward and breaking into newareas of production, we are seeing sort of a real shift in the waypeople think about at Ubuntu in two different environments.

On theconsumer front, we’re seeing a shift in the way people think aboutalternative platforms to Windows amongst the PC companies. It used tobe a kiss of death to present yourself as a genuine alternative toWindows. But the success of the Web and the success of Apple havereally made the PC companies think that it is possible to offersomething that is perceived to be valuable even if it is not Windows.

So we’re seeing a rapid ramp-up of the number of PCs that ship aroundthe world with Ubuntu, which is good for us. And those are going tofolks who are not Linux enthusiasts and are not Linux specialists. Soit has really raised the bar on the quality and crispness of theexperience you have to deliver in order to keep those people happy.

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Canonical Breathes Longer Life Into Two Ubuntu Aging Releases

Canonical on Sept. 21 announced the lifecycle extension of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr) and 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) to help organizations implement their transition to new applications and technologies.

This lifecycle extension enables organizations to balance their infrastructure upgrade costs. The support extensions give them additional time to implement their upgrade plan. The lifecycle extensions provide support for a total of 10 years.

Canonical’s Extended Security Maintenance (ESM) phase of Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04 LTS enables a secure and low-maintenance infrastructure with security updates and kernel live patches.

The prolonged lifecycle of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and 16.04 LTS turns a new page in Canonical’s commitment to enabling enterprise environments, according to Nikos Mavrogiannopoulos, product manager at Canonical.

“Each industry sector has its own deployment lifecycle and adopts technology at a different pace. We are bringing an operating system lifecycle that lets organizations manage their infrastructure on their terms,” he said.

Better Economics and Cybersecurity

Organizations have been putting significant effort and financial resources to phase out legacy systems. Those efforts have significantly increased IT budgets over the past three years, noted Canonical.

By prolonging the operating system lifecycle to 10 years, Canonical is helping organizations to better assess their IT budget in order to implement or plan their infrastructure upgrades.

Organizations are constantly being challenged by attackers taking advantage of vulnerabilities to gain access or deploy malware. Whatever cybersecurity framework organizations pick — ISO 27000, NIST, PCI, or CIS Controls, Ubuntu offers them an implementation path. ESM and kernel live patching provide the necessary foundation for continuous vulnerability management.

Extended Security Maintenance ensures that the Ubuntu OS receives security updates. The Livepatch service reduces the unplanned work that comes from Linux kernel vulnerabilities. This makes organizations more effective when managing Ubuntu systems.


Ubuntu End of Life schedule


A Boost From Base Offering

Ubuntu users can normally receive security updates for the Ubuntu base OS, critical software packages, and infrastructure components with Extended Security Maintenance. ESM provides five additional years of security maintenance, enabling an organization’s continuous vulnerability management.

ESM is available through an Ubuntu Advantage for Infrastructure subscription for physical servers, virtual machines, containers, and desktops. It is free for personal use.

Ubuntu Pro premium images are optimized for the public cloud. They provide security maintenance for high and critical Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) for the entire collection of software packages shipped with Ubuntu.

Extended Lifecycle for All

The extended lifecycle is available to all Ubuntu users, not just enterprise customers, noted Mavrogiannopoulos. The benefit comes with no additional cost and without any configuration change on the updated systems. This applies to Ubuntu Advantage and Ubuntu Pro subscriptions as well as the free personal subscriptions.

“Canonical has a mission to bring free software to the widest audience, and we do not intend to change that,” he told LinuxInsider.

But this change in Ubuntu’s lifecycle schedule for Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04 does not change Canonical’s strategy for long-term-support releases going forward, he said.

Transitional Factors

The number of Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04 instances still in use today factored into Canonical’s decision to extend the useful shelf life. Canonical’s product manager estimated that the user base totals hundreds of thousands.

Many of those running instances are part of critical infrastructure in enterprises with a ton of capability built on top of them over the years. They are secure, easy to maintain, and simply do the job, according to Mavrogiannopoulos.

Canonical is prolonging the ESM period to enable enterprises that use Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04 to implement their transition plan at a pace that suits them.

“We found out that there is no one size fits all on the lifecycle management, as different industries and sectors adopt technologies on different time frames and adhere to different requirements. We are extending Ubuntu’s life cycle to remain the platform of choice for users who value stability and long-term maintenance,” he said.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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