Ubuntu Server Edition 9.04The next version of Ubuntu, 'Jaunty Jackalope', offers several new features in the server edition.  Below, we take a look at what the latest release of Ubuntu, set to become stable on April 23, will mean for server administrators, IT departments and service providers.

This is the second installment in WorksWithU's countdown to Ubuntu 9.04.  Last week, we outlined changes in Jaunty that will interest desktop users.

Eucalyptus and the Cloud

Jaunty server edition's most noticeable new feature is support for cloud computing via Eucalyptus, which makes it easy to deploy private clouds on Ubuntu servers.  This is an innovative change, and makes Ubuntu an attractive choice for enterprises interested in hosting clouds either to distribute their own computing resources more efficiently, or to rent their servers' disk space and processing power to customers.

At the same time, however, Canonical's own release notes for Jaunty beta emphasize that Eucalyptus is intended only as a "technology preview" that allows users to "experiment" with cloud computing--in other words, feel free to research cloud computing on Jaunty, but don't plan on putting it into production just yet.

Releasing an enterprise product with warnings that some of its components may not be ready for mass consumption is a bit awkward.  But as long as users understand that Eucalyptus on Jaunty remains beta, it's probably worth it, as it will ensure that Eucalyptus receives heavy testing and will be 100-percent prepared for production by the time of the next long-term support release of Ubuntu.

Mail server

Jaunty server edition also includes the dovecot-postfix package for easy installation of mail servers.  I'm not sure this is very impressive--it's already been possible since at least Ubuntu 8.04 to set up a mail server in one click by selecting it while installing the system.

Nonetheless, having all the mail components available in a single package is convenient.  It's also consistent with strides made by Ubuntu-server developers in recent releases aimed at simplifying the deployment of major services--Ubuntu 8.10's support for easy installation and management of the KVM virtualization hypervisor via handy meta packages is another example.

Linux kernel

Like the desktop edition, Ubuntu server 9.04 ships with Linux kernel 2.6.28.   Innovations in the kernel of greatest interest to server users include:
  1. support for the ext4 file system, which significantly increases performance by reducing file read/write time
  2. memory-management improvements, providing more efficient use of virtual memory (swap).  Although a well-designed server should not be reading from swap very often, this feature can be useful on systems under heavy load that lack sufficient physical memory
  3. updates to the rapidly maturing KVM virtualization hypervisor, making virtualization via free, integrated tools on Linux more efficient and reliable
Given that Jaunty is not a long-term support release, many server users are likely to opt instead for Ubuntu 8.04 (a.k.a 'Hardy') in production environments, since the latter receives security updates through 2013.  This means that the features new to Jaunty server edition will be limited largely to testbeds.  Nonetheless, those who opt to put Jaunty into production on their servers will benefit from incremental improvements and new features that, although not yet completely stable, offer cutting-edge functionality.

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