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The Ubuntu lifecycle and release cadence

Canonical publishes new releases of Ubuntu on a regular cadence, enabling the community, businesses and developers to plan their roadmaps with the certainty of access to newer open source upstream capabilities.

Version numbers are YY.MM

Releases of Ubuntu get a development codename ('ImpishIndri') and are versioned by the year and month of delivery - for example, Ubuntu 21.10 was released in October 2021.

Long term support and interim releases

LTS or 'Long Term Support' releases are published every two years in April. LTS releases are the 'enterprise grade' releases of Ubuntu and are used the most. An estimated 95% of all Ubuntu installations are LTS releases.

Every six months between LTS versions, Canonical publishes an interim release of Ubuntu, with 21.10 being the latest example. These are production-quality releases and are supported for 9 months, with sufficient time provided for users to update, but these releases do not receive the long-term commitment of LTS releases.

Ubuntu Release

  Released End of Standard Support End of Life
10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx) Apr 2010 Apr 2015  
12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin) Apr 2012 Apr 2017 Apr 2019
14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr) Apr 2014 Apr 2019 Apr 2024
16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) Apr 2016 Apr 2021 Apr 2026
18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) Apr 2018 Apr 2023 Apr 2028
20.04 LTS (Focal Fossa) Apr 2020 Apr 2025 Apr 2030
20.10 (Groovy Gorilla) Oct 2020 Jul 2021  
21.10 (Hirsute Hippo) Oct 2021 Jul 2022  
21.04 (Impish Indri) Apr 2021 Jan 2022  
22.04 LTS (Jammy Jellyfish) Apr 2022 Apr 2027 Apr 2032

Interim releases will introduce new capabilities from Canonical and upstream open source projects, they serve as a proving ground for these new capabilities. Many developers run interim releases because they provide newer compilers or access to newer kernels and newer libraries, and they are often used inside rapid devops processes like CI/CD pipelines where the lifespan of an artefact is likely to be less than the support period of the interim release. Interim releases receive full security maintenance for 'main' during their lifespan.

Release components - debs, snaps, images, containers

A release of Ubuntu is made through several different channels. What you consume will depend on where you are and what your interests happen to be.

The heart of Ubuntu is a collection of 'deb' packages which are tested and integrated so that they work well as a set. Debs are optimised for highly structured dependency management, enabling you to combine debs very richly while ensuring that the necessary software dependencies for each deb (themselves delivered as debs) are installed on your machine.

Ubuntu also supports 'snap' packages which are more suited for third-party applications and tools which evolve at their own speed, independently of Ubuntu. If you want to install a high-profile app like Skype or a toolchain like the latest version of Golang, you probably want the snap because it will give you fresher versions and more control of the specific major versions you want to track.

Snaps each pick a 'base', for example, Ubuntu18 (corresponding to the set of minimal debs in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS). Nevertheless, the choice of base does not impact on your ability to use a snap on any of the supported Linux distributions or versions — it's a choice of the publisher and should be invisible to you as a user or developer.

A snap can be strictly confined, which means that it operates in a secure box with only predefined points of access to the rest of the system. For third-party applications, this means that you will have a very high level of confidence that the app can only see appropriate data that you have provided to it. Snaps can also be 'classic' which means that they behave more like debs, and can see everything on your system. You should make sure you have a high level of confidence in the publisher of any classic snap you install since a compromise or bad faith behaviour in that code is not confined to the app itself.

It is also common to consume Ubuntu as an image on a public cloud, or as a container. Ubuntu is published by Canonical on all major public clouds, and the latest image for each LTS version will always include security updates rolled up to at most two weeks ago. You may benefit from installing newer updates than that, but the base image you boot on the cloud should always be the current one from Canonical to ensure that it is broadly up to date and the number of updates needed for full security is minimal.

Canonical also publishes a set of images and containers that you can download for use with VMware or other local hypervisors and private cloud technologies. These include standard Ubuntu images on the Docker Hub and standard images for use with LXD and MAAS. These images are also kept up to date, with the publication of rolled up security updated images on a regular cadence, and you should automate your use of the latest images to ensure consistent security coverage for your users.

Editions, Classic and Core

Each release of Ubuntu is available in minimal configurations which have the fewest possible packages installed: available in the installer for Server, Desktop and as separate cloud images. There are also multiple flavours of desktop Ubuntu corresponding to a number of desktop GUI preferences. All of these images are considered 'Classic' Ubuntu because they use debs as their base and may add snaps for specific packages or applications.

The Ubuntu Core image is an all-snap edition of Ubuntu. It is unusual in that the base operating system itself is delivered as a snap; that makes it suitable for embedded appliances where all the possible apps that might need to be installed are available as strictly confined snaps. Ubuntu Core is an appliance or embedded oriented edition of Ubuntu, not particularly comfortable for humans but highly reliable and secure for large-scale appliance deployments such as IoT and CPE in the telco world.

Maintenance and security updates

The debs in Ubuntu are categorised by whether they are considered part of the base system ('main' and 'restricted' are in the base and 'universe' and 'multiverse' are not) and whether they are open source ('main' and 'universe' are, 'restricted' and 'multiverse' are not).

  Ubuntu Base Packages Community Packages
Open Source main universe
Not Open Source restricted multiverse

For each Ubuntu LTS release, Canonical maintains the Base Packages and provides security updates, including kernel livepatching, for a period of ten years. The lifecycle consists of an initial five-year maintenance period, during which maintenance updates are publicly available without an Ubuntu Advantage Subscription, and five years of Extended Security Maintenance (ESM). The full lifecycle is available with an Ubuntu Advantage subscription or a free personal subscription.

Customers of Canonical often ask for an extended security maintenance commitment beyond the Ubuntu Base Packages such as the 'universe' software packages. You can contact us for more information.

Ubuntu LTS releases transition into Extended Security Maintenance (ESM) phase as the standard, five-year public maintenance window comes to a close. Canonical recommends that users and organisations upgrade to the latest LTS release or subscribe to Ubuntu Advantage for continued security coverage with ESM and kernel livepatching.

To check the subscription status of your system, use this command:

The Ubuntu Releases wiki has current information on previous and upcoming versions.

Ubuntu kernel release cycle

Canonical maintains multiple kernel packages for each LTS version of Ubuntu, which serve different purposes. Several of the kernel packages address the need for kernels with specific performance priorities, for example, the low-latency kernel package. Others are focused on optimisation for a particular hypervisor, for example, the kernel packages which are named after public clouds. You are recommended to use the detailed Ubuntu kernel guide to select the best Ubuntu kernel for your application.

In general, all of the LTS kernel packages will use the same base version of the Linux kernel, for example, Ubuntu 20.04 LTS kernels typically used the 5.4 upstream Linux kernel as a base. Some cloud-specific kernels may use a newer version in order to benefit from improved mechanisms in performance or security that are material to that cloud. These kernels are all supported for the full life of their underlying LTS release.

In addition, the kernel versions from the subsequent four releases are made available on the latest LTS release of Ubuntu. So Ubuntu 18.04 LTS received the kernels from Ubuntu 18.10, 19.04, 19.10 and 20.04 LTS. These kernels use newer upstream versions and as a result, offer an easy path to newer features and newer classes of hardware for many users of Ubuntu. Note however that these kernels 'roll' which means that they jump every six months until the next LTS. Large scale deployments that adopt the 'hardware enablement' or HWE kernels should manage those transitions explicitly. These newer HWE kernels are accompanied by a collection of userspace tools closely tied to the kernel and hardware, specifically X display enablement on newer graphics cards.

The Ubuntu kernel support lifecycle is as follows:

Kernel version Ubuntu version Released End of life Extended security maintenance
22.04 kernel Ubuntu 20.04.5 LTS Aug 2022 Apr 2025 Apr 2030
Ubuntu 22.04.0 LTS Apr 2022 Apr 2027 Mar 2032
5.13 kernel Ubuntu 20.04.4 LTS Feb 2022 Jul 2022  
Ubuntu 21.10 Oct 2021 Jul 2022  
5.11 kernel Ubuntu 20.04.3 LTS Aug 2021 Jan 2022  
Ubuntu 21.04 Apr 2021 Jan 2022  
5.8 kernel Ubuntu 20.04.2 LTS Feb 2021 Jul 2021  
Ubuntu 20.10 Oct 2020 Jul 2021  
Ubuntu 18.04.5 LTS Aug 2020 Apr 2023 Apr 2028
Ubuntu 20.04.1 LTS Aug 2020 Apr 2025 Apr 2030
Ubuntu 20.04.0 LTS Apr 2020 Apr 2025 Apr 2030
4.15 kernel Ubuntu 16.04.5 LTS Aug 2018 Apr 2021 Apr 2024
Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS Jul 2018 Apr 2023 Apr 2028
Ubuntu 18.04.0 LTS Apr 2018 Apr 2023 Apr 2028
4.4 kernel Ubuntu 14.04.5 LTS Aug 2016 Apr 2019 Apr 2022
Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS Jul 2016 Apr 2021 Apr 2024
Ubuntu 16.04.0 LTS Apr 2016 Apr 2021 Apr 2024
3.13 kernel Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS Jul 2014 Apr 2019 Apr 2022
Ubuntu 14.04.0 LTS Apr 2014 Apr 2019 Apr 2022

For more information on previous and upcoming kernel releases please see the Ubuntu LTS Enablement Stack wiki page.

OpenStack release cycle

OpenStack release cadence follows Ubuntu release cadence. This means that a new version of OpenStack is released twice a year: in April and in October. Those are shipped with new versions of Ubuntu as packages in the Ubuntu Archive.

However, since Canonical recommends using only LTS versions of Ubuntu in production environments, this limits available OpenStack versions to one by default. Therefore, Canonical maintains an additional archive – Ubuntu Cloud Archive – to provdide access to non-default versions of OpenStack on Ubuntu LTS.

As a result, OpenStack versions that are shipped on Ubuntu LTS by default (aka OpenStack LTS versions) benefit from Canonical's commitment around the Ubuntu Archive, including 5 years of standard support and Extended Security Maintenance (ESM). In turn, OpenStack versions which are shipped on Ubuntu LTS through the Ubuntu Cloud Archive are supported by Canonical for 18 months only.

Upgrades between consecutive OpenStack versions are fully supported. Users can first upgrade to newer OpenStack versions until the next OpenStack LTS version. Then they can upgrade the underlying Ubuntu operating system. In order to ensure smooth upgrades of OpenStack on Ubuntu, Canonical provides the automation framework based on the OpenStack Charms project.

The OpenStack support lifecycle on Ubuntu can be represented this way:

Release Tech preview Released End of life Extended customer support Extended Security Maintenance (ESM)
OpenStack Yoga LTS   Apr 2022 Apr 2027   Apr 2032
Ubuntu 22.04 LTS   Apr 2022 Apr 2027   Apr 2032
OpenStack Yoga   Apr 2022 Apr 2025    
OpenStack Xena   Oct 2021 Apr 2023    
OpenStack W   Apr 2021 Oct 2022 Apr 2024  
OpenStack Victoria   Oct 2020 Apr 2022    
OpenStack Ussuri LTS Apr 2020 May 2020 Apr 2025   Apr 2030
Ubuntu 20.04 LTS   Apr 2020 Apr 2025   Apr 2030
OpenStack Ussuri Apr 2020 May 2020 Apr 2023    
OpenStack Train   Aug 2019 Feb 2021    
OpenStack Stein   Apr 2019 Oct 2020 Apr 2022  
OpenStack Rocky   Aug 2018 Feb 2020    
OpenStack Queens LTS   Apr 2018 Apr 2023   Apr 2028
Ubuntu 18.04 LTS   Apr 2018 Apr 2023   Apr 2028
OpenStack Mitaka LTS   Apr 2016 Apr 2021   Apr 2024
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS   Apr 2016 Apr 2021   Apr 2024

For more information on supported versions, see Charmed OpenStack documentation.

Canonical Kubernetes release cycle

The release cycles of Charmed Kubernetes and MicroK8s are tightly synchronised to the release of upstream Kubernetes®. The current release and two prior releases are supported, giving an effective support period of twelve months, subject to changes in the upstream release cycle. Canonical also provides security maintenance for N-4 Kubernetes releases in the stable release channel.

The Charmed Kubernetes support lifecycle can be represented this way:

Release Released End of life
1.21.x Apr 2021 Apr 2022
1.20.x Dec 2020 Dec 2021
1.19.x Aug 2020 Aug 2021
1.18.x Mar 2020 Apr 2021
1.17.x Jan 2020 Dec 2020
1.16.x Oct 2019 Jul 2020
1.15.x Sep 2019 Jun 2020
1.14.x Jun 2019 Mar 2020
1.13.x Mar 2019 Dec 2019

For more information on previous and current releases, please see the Charmed Kubernetes release notes or the MicroK8s release notes.