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Is Ubuntu an enterprise Linux distribution?

This article is more than 4 years old.

Is Ubuntu an enterprise Linux distribution? If you are asking, you are probably wondering if you can use Ubuntu anywhere else other than your workstation or development environment. Perhaps you are wondering whether you can implement Ubuntu in your enterprise, including production environments? If that is the case, I have good news for you. Yes. Ubuntu is an enterprise Linux distribution with full commercial support provided by Canonical, the publisher and maintainer of Ubuntu.

But hold on for a second. What actually is an enterprise Linux distribution? And what does that mean for your business?

What is an enterprise Linux distribution?

Linux is an open source operating system, thus most Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, are available free of charge. Lack of an expensive license is one of the main reasons why various organisations are moving to Linux nowadays. While not willing to pay for Linux usage, many do not mind paying for Linux support. This is especially true for the enterprises who expect an enterprise-class readiness from the Linux distribution of their choice. This includes bug fixes, security patches, commercial support and special features. These things build what we call an ‘enterprise Linux distribution’.

Bug fixes and security patches

One of the first problems organisations face when using new software is bugs. This is not any different for the operating system. Although all new changes in the Linux source code have to pass rigorous tests during the development phase, the software is still software. Bugs are unavoidable. Thus, the time needed to fix the bug by the maintainer becomes a decisive factor for organisations when picking a distribution. The same applies to security patches. Although Linux is known to be one of the most secure operating systems, its components might be vulnerable to exploitation. Therefore, the most important questions are: what is the average response time for the vulnerabilities? And for how long will the distribution receive security patches.

Maintainers of enterprise Linux distributions offer both on-demand bug fixes and regular security patches for an extended period of time. This allows unblocking customers immediately when they face a bug. Allowing them to focus back on the work that they are doing, rather than spending time looking for workarounds. In turn, receiving automatic security updates has another positive effect. It allows them to stay patched for as long as supported by the maintainer. This ensures that the platform they are using provides the highest possible level of security regardless of software versions they are using.

Support services

Another problem that organisations usually struggle with during their daily operations is a lack of knowledge about Linux and its infrastructure. Although leading Linux distributions are designed to be user-friendly and easy to use, OpenStack, Kubernetes or Ceph, may not be as easy to deploy and maintain. A non-working service in a development environment results in hours spent on troubleshooting. In turn, a non-working service in a production environment can cause bigger damage. It can even result in an outage of the entire infrastructure and all applications running on top of it. Thus, getting a hand in such situations is what enterprises expect.

Maintainers provide this help in the form of support services available through subscription. In that case, the maintainer of a Linux distribution has a dedicated support team. Such a team is geographically-distributed and is always ready to help the customer with the issues they are facing. The communication is handled through a ticketing system, e-mail or phone calls until the issue gets resolved. In order to guarantee that the customer receives help within a certain period of time, service-level agreements (SLAs) are usually defined in the contract. Support services help enterprises to manage and minimise the risk associated with using the software, whether it is the operating system itself or one of the infrastructure components.

Enterprise-class features

Last but not least, enterprises usually require very specific features in their Linux distribution which allow them to run Linux-based infrastructure and applications at scale. Those include centralised management and monitoring platforms, the ability to perform software updates without rebooting, security and compliance certifications, hardening, and more. All of which helps them to do operations more efficiently, meet their availability goals, and stay even more secure. Such features are usually included in the support subscription and are provided for commercial customers at no additional cost.

Ubuntu for enterprises

Now, let’s think about Ubuntu again. How is Ubuntu an enterprise Linux distribution if it is available free of charge?

Apart from publishing and maintaining Ubuntu, providing engineering resources and driving the roadmaps, Canonical has a reach portfolio of services to manage and operate Ubuntu-based infrastructure at scale. The company provides full commercial support for Ubuntu under the Ubuntu Advantage for Infrastructure (UA-I) subscription. This includes software updates, up to ten years of security patches, phone and ticket support and production-grade SLAs.

Furthermore, UA-I customers are eligible to use extra features, such as Landscape management and monitoring platform or Kernel Livepatch Service for kernel updates. And finally, for the public clouds, Canonical provides Ubuntu Pro. Images that not only contain all the goodness above but also extend it with features like hardening for security and compliance. All of that at a competitive price compared to any other alternatives.

Having all of that said, Ubuntu is an enterprise Linux distribution used by thousands of organisations for their mission-critical workloads. What makes it an enterprise-class distribution are the security and support plans provided by Canonical. At the same time, it is available free of charge for anyone on the planet which, in conjunction to its user-friendliness and ease of use, makes Ubuntu the most popular Linux distribution across public clouds, data centres and the edge. Coming soon to an enterprise near you. 

Learn more about Ubuntu

To learn more about Ubuntu refer to the following materials:

Watch the webinar: “What’s new in Ubuntu 20.04 LTS

Get in touch with Canonical for commercial support for Ubuntu.

Download Ubuntu.

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