The Ubuntu Server operating system has not yet become as widely used as the Ubuntu desktop edition, but it is slowly getting there. A recent Ubuntu global survey showed that only 28% of respondents were from the US, and the majority of these were using the OS only for basic functions such as Web, database and backup servers while only a small minority used it for advanced work such as cluster computing or virtualization. On the other hand, most respondents said they are assigning mission critical tasks to the OS and are planning to add more Ubuntu OS servers in the future.
One major selling point of the Ubuntu Server edition of its OS is the adoption of cloud computing. Cloud computing is the generic term for an emerging technology that delivers hosted services over the Internet; it allows companies to add capabilities or increase capacity without having to spend on infrastructure or license new software. Installing the Ubuntu OS allows companies to set up applications on Amazon’s EC2 Cloud Computing service or use Ubuntu’s Enterprise Cloud tool to build their own cloud inside the corporate firewall. The majority of respondents to the Ubuntu survey said they consider the OS a good platform for cloud computing.
Apart from cloud computing the Ubuntu Server edition OS has many other features which make it invaluable to companies seeking affordable information technology solutions. For example, the Bind9 package allows the OS to act as a DNS server or resolver. The OpenVPN package also allows companies to build a virtual private network. You can also backup Linux and WinXX desktops and laptops to a server’s disk using the BackupPC application. Even if you already have a pre-existing infrastructure, you can share files with Windows and Mac OS with the Samba application. You can even install and set up your own mail server using Postfix and Dovecot open source packages.
There are a few problems that prevent the more widespread adoption of the Ubuntu Server edition OS, with one of the biggest obstacles being the lack of hardware certifications for its server OS. The latest Ubuntu 9.04 OS was recently certified by Hewlett-Packard for use on its ProLiant G6 servers, while discussions with IBM and Dell are underway. There are also a few applications not certified to run on the OS and some specialized uses such as clustering and High Availability which may not be appropriate for use with Ubuntu.
Expect future releases of the Ubuntu Server OS to remain focused on cloud technology. In fact, the Ubuntu 9.10, nicknamed the Karmic Koala and set for release in October 2009, will even enable corporations using Ubuntu in conjunction with Amazon EC2 to move their instances inside and outside of corporate firewalls. Adoption of the Ubuntu OS in the US is also seen to grow steadily, particularly for non-commercial users. The largest growth is seen in small and medium-sized businesses, which could benefit from the cost savings of cloud deployment. Ubuntu’s adoption by the bigger corporations, however, could be hindered by concerns over the platform’s staying power and whether the OS will be supported.