Canonical Voices

Steve George

Want to know Canonical’s secret business plan? Or find out the latest features we’re working on in Ubuntu or UbuntuOne? Then hop over to the Canonical Voices site.  It’s a blog aggregator that provides a single location for Canonical employees to blog and engage with the wider world.

Many Canonical employees develop Ubuntu directly making them members of the Ubuntu community so their views already appear on Ubuntu Planet. However, there are lots of Canonical employees who work in other areas, such as with OEM’s, or on UbuntuOne, in marketing or with business customers. Canonical voices brings together everyone in the company and provides a single place where you can see the breadth of their views, opinions and thoughts.

As an Open Source technology company we’re working within a variety of communities; sometimes that means an Open Source project, but it could mean a group of users or a set of companies. So it’s important for us to be transparent and to engage in a conversation – encouraging understanding and perhaps sparking interesting ideas. Canonical Voices provides a space for that.

A connected point is that Canonical hires a lot of intelligent, opinionated and interesting people who are great communicators. Hopefully, Voices will provide a focus and context for those that want to blog, sparking everyone within the company to feel they are part of an organisation wide conversation. Personally, I’ve been reading Voices regularly for the last few weeks and I’ve already learnt lots of interesting things about other projects within Canonical.

I can’t promise that I’ll be any better at blogging regularly, I’ve already broken quite a few promises and resolutions on that front! Nonetheless, I’ve started aggregating posts about Ubuntu, Linux and Canonical over to the Voices site. Please check it out and become part of the conversation!

Tagged: Ubuntu

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Steve George

A very long time ago, in a parallel universe managing backups on Linux was a real headache.  If you can remember all the way back to the mid 90′s these wasn’t journaling or iSCSI and Linux wasn’t as stable as it is now – so having good backups was your only lifeline! Arkeia was the the first back-up software that I used for the linux systems, at the time most of the other vendors didn’t support Linux. Of course there were free software options, but they were really hard to use. And anyway, we didn’t want backup, we wanted restore. So Arkeia it was, and it worked very well.

As backup is so easy to ignore, anything that makes it easier is good news. That’s why it’s great news that Arkeia now supports Ubuntu. They recently announced that Arkeia Network Backup version 8 is available on Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. Arkeia have also signed up as a Silver Partner in the Ubuntu Partner programme.

Arkeia is a network backup system, so it’s suitable for a networked environment. There’s a central backup server where all the backups are stored on disk or tape, and individual clients are installed on each system within the network. The agent itself is available for Ubuntu, RH, Novell SUSE, OSX and Windows. So in one scenario you can use an Ubuntu server as the central backup server and install agents on all the other systems in your network. Alternatively, if you have an existing Arkeia set-up this announcement means you can install the agent on your Ubuntu systems and back them up to your existing backup server.

If you’d like to try out Arkeia they’re also offering a free version for Ubuntu users. A pre-licensed version is available through the Ubuntu partner repository, so if you have this switched on then a simple apt-get install arkeia will download and install it. With this free license you can backup two systems (any platform including Windows and OSX) with up to 250GB of files whether tape or disk based. See their documentation for more information.

If you don’t have a backup system this is a great way to get started.

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Steve George

Ubuntu home server

One of the most common requests the Ubuntu community asks for is a home server or small business server.  This Beepstar post, The trouble with Ubuntu Server for beginners, encapsulates the argument nicely when the article says:

“95% of the would-be “nixers” are completely stunned, at that point when the Ubuntu Server installation states that it has finished and all that’s offered to the user is a black screen and a prompt line. Users … basically scrap the whole thing, install Windows and use … solutions which lack raw power but come with an comprehensive interface”

It’s certainly an interesting point, we can surmise that one of the things that heavily assisted the growth of Windows on the server was the Graphical User Interface (GUI) that came with NT 3.5 and NT 4. At the time the competitive product was Netware which was the dominant technology for providing servers in LAN’s, and networks were themselves reasonably new for small business networks. Windows rode the networking trend really well, and gave advanced technical users (rather than professional IT staff) the idea that they could run their own servers.

I’ll come back to the question of whether Ubuntu server should be trying to focus in this area for a moment, and just focus on technology problems we face in providing a home server. There’s two elements:

a. A set of common services
The use-cases are relatively straight-forward but the key is the integration.  So we’d want thinks like basic file and print, with network services.

b. A nice user experience
An easy to use interface that can guide the user through the initial installation, but also the reconfiguration and management of the services.

We’ve been working on common services in Ubuntu server and ensuring that they’re well integrated and easy to set-up as this makes every system administrators life easier.  So making LAMP easy to install, integrating the experience of attaching to a Windows Network and the recent e-mail stack work all make setting up common services easy and quick.

To provide a graphical user experience there are a range of options.  There’s some well-known free software options, the two most well-know are E-Box and Webmin.  There’s also commercial control panels such as Plesk which is used a lot by hosting providers.

It’s difficult to see a way to integrate one of these panels as the default way of adminstering  an Ubuntu server as the impact on professional users would be dramatic.  For various reasons these tools assume that you only manage the system through the GUI.  So there’s no way to integrate them that would maintain the freedom of professional system administrators to manage the system using the command line interface.

Meanwhile, professional system administrators face a different set of problems.  The shift of delivering everything through a web server and the introduction of virtualization and cloud computing is causing an explosion of server instances.  So for these use cases the focus is on a small, efficient server with centralised configuration management capability.

The compromise may well be a small, powerful server platform aimed for cloud computing.  Then a range of appliances (virtual or otherwise) built  to meet the specific needs of both professional and personal (ie home) users.  There’s been a few different community efforts along these lines and I hope we’ll see more.

A few members of the Ubuntu Server Team wrote about this a while ago, so check out the posts by Dustin, Soren and Thierry.

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Steve George

Ubuntu is widely used as a server platform, across organisations of all sizes, particularly for web and application delivery.  Those are the results from a survey of 7000 Ubuntu users that we released a while ago, in conjunction with RedMonk.  The press coverage was good, and now it’s died down I thought I’d add a few other thoughts.

The first question has to be why we undertook a survey.  Understanding how platform’s used, what users value and what features they want is incredibly important.  We use that input to guide our development, inform our decisions and focus our attention.  Open source development provides significant detailed and direct feedback, but surveys offer some other insights.

First, they’re a route to reach people that don’t take part in the development process directly – which is the majority of users.  Second, the volume of input gives us a strong statistical basis for examining trends – 7000 users is a significant pool of input. Finally, it’s an objective confirmation to qualitative feedback that we receive through other mechanisms, this helps confirm assessments we’ve made or trends we’ve observed. If you took the survey thanks very much for your time and input!

What are the main take-aways from the survey? Well clearly our users depend on Ubuntu as a server platform, it’s used for serious production deployments.  It’s used across a wide range of organisation sizes and industries.  That’s important because it tells us that our efforts to develop the platform, and spread the message that Ubuntu has a strong server capability are meeting with success.  It’s also a data driven stake through the heart of the myth that Ubuntu server is only used by small business or hobbyists.

Second, that our users value the key qualities that we provide – the heritage from Debian, the regular releases, the focus on a tight and efficient platform for all the common workloads.  I was particularly struck by the range of workloads that Ubuntu is being used for.  We see Ubuntu being used for edge of network infrastucture (DNS/Web), but also internal application delivery (Java app serving/Databases) and it’s starting to make its way into line of business (CRM/ERP) delivery.  These aspects are important because they guide our focus for future development as we make our way towards the next LTS release in 2010.

Finally, the range of geographies and individual situations where the server is deployed is incredibly exciting.  Between the geographical data from Shipit and this survey we can conclude that Ubuntu is used globally. From a large media delivery platform in Europe, to a school in the Phillipines, each is spreading Ubuntu and benefiting from it in their own unique way.  In the long-run this reach broadens the tent of Ubuntu (and Linux) supporters and developers.  If the next 8 million users come from the developing world image what we can accomplish!

My thanks to Nick Barcet and the server community who put the survey together – it was a lot of work but has been really beneficial.  I hope we’ll continue to run surveys in the future so that we can build up a picture of how things change.  If you’d like to see the results with a deeper analysis then pop over to Gerry Carr’s blog post to download the whitepaper.

Tagged: Ubuntu

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Steve George

I really enjoyed Ubucon NY which happened on the Friday after LinuxWorld New York. Ubucon’s are informal gatherings where Ubuntu users get together to learn and socialise. The New York one was set up as an unconference so the attendees decided what the activities and talks would be. They’re organised by active members of the user community. John Mark did a great job organising it, and kept the day clicking along. Leslie and the rest of the Google team deserve thanks for providing the facilities and their overall enthusiasm. I of course returned the favour by making sure that no food on the buffet went
to waste!

It was interesting to see the wide variety of people who are active and interested enough to come along to a community event. The range was amazing, from professional business users who wanted to learn more about Ubuntu, to some of the seasoned Free Software activists.

Fabian did a great talk about our commercial support services for Ubuntu and what it’s like to work at Canonical. I learnt a few things myself! I was supposed to do a talk on the Ubuntu roadmap but there wasn’t enough time at the end of the day. So as people were getting tired I did a quick Q&A session on Canonical and Ubuntu instead. It got picked up in eWeek which was very surprising as it really was short: I think I managed to answer most people’s questions with a reasonable level of clarity!

If you’d like to be notified about upcoming Ubucon’s then you can subscribe to the Wiki page. The plan is for the next one to be in Sevilla, Spain on Saturday May 5th and is being organised by Jono Bacon. We’re also having our first formal user and business conference called Ubuntu Live. It’s in Portland, USA and comes right in front of OSCON July 22nd to 24th – make it a date in your diary!

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