Is Ubuntu becoming a big name in enterprise Linux servers?

Is Ubuntu becoming a big name in enterprise Linux servers?

Summary: Mark Shuttleworth says yes, Ubuntu is now competitive with Red Hat Enterprise Linux in the enterprise space.


Since last summer, Ubuntu has been more popular than Red Hat as a Web server.

Since last summer, Ubuntu has been more popular than Red Hat as a Web server.

When you think of Ubuntu Linux, what do you think of? I would guess you think about the Linux desktop. While Ubuntu is certainly a big player—maybe the biggest—when it comes to the Linux desktop, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu wants you to know that “A remarkable thing happened this year: companies started adopting Ubuntu over RHEL for large-scale enterprise workloads, in droves.”

Shuttleworth makes this claim because, according to W3Tech, which surveys technologies used on the Web, shows that since July 2011 Ubuntu has overtaken Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) for Web servers. According to W3Techs, as of February, “Ubuntu s now used on 6% of all Web servers, up from 4% one year ago.”

Shuttleworth choose Web servers for his benchmark because “Web services are a public affair.” Nevertheless, Shuttleworth claims that “the trend is even starker if you look at what we know of new-style services, like clouds and big data.”

He may be on to something. In my own research, I found that Cloud Market, a group that scans the Amazon EC2 cloud use shows Ubuntu is the top operating system with almost 12-thousand instances. Generic Linux comes in second trailing by thousands, and Windows is far behind in third with 3,58-thousand instances. Combining RHEL with its clone CentOS, the Red Hat family came in with about 2.3-thousand.

Ubuntu images are by far the most popular operating systems images on the Amazon cloud.

Ubuntu images are by far the most popular operating system images on the Amazon cloud.

Now Cloud Market is measuring Amazon Machine Image (AMI), a pre-configured operating system and virtual application software which is used to create a virtual machine, not the number of running systems. As Shuttleworth told me during our e-mail discussion of Cloud Market's data “I would characterize it as an easily gamed measure of innovation (i.e. a measure that will become less useful if lots of people start talking about it :-) rather than a measure of adoption. It's a measure of how many people have taken the OS and done their own snapshot with their own customizations, not a measure of how many of each of those images is running.” Since, however, no one to my knowledge has been looking at Cloud Market's data in this way it strikes me as still showing serious business server interest in Ubuntu.

So why are people looking at Ubuntu for servers? In his blog posting Shuttleworth wrote, “The key driver of this has been that we added quality as a top-level goal across the teams that build Ubuntu – both Canonical’s and the community’s. We also have retained the focus on keeping the up-to-date tools available on Ubuntu for developers, and on delivering a great experience in the cloud, where computing is headed.”

Sure, “The headlines for Ubuntu have all been about the desktop and consumer-focused design efforts, with the introduction of Unity and the expansion of our goals to span the phone, the tablet, the TV as well as the PC. But underpinning those goals has been a raising of the quality game.”

Looking ahead, Shuttleworth wrote, “12.04 LTS [Long Term Support] is a coming of age release for Ubuntu in the data centre as much as its the first LTS to sport the interface which was designed to span the full range of personal computing needs. At the same time he notes that “OpenStack’s [the popular open-source cloud platform) Essex release is lined up to be a perfect fit for 12.04 LTS. That is not a coincidence, it’s a value to which both projects are committed. Upstream projects that care about their user’s and care about being adopted quickly, want an effective conduit of their goodness straight to users. By adopting the 6-month / 2-year cadence of step and LTS releases, and aligning those with Ubuntu’s release cycle, OpenStack ensures that a very large audience of system administrators, developers and enterprise decision makers can plan for their OpenStack deployment, and know they will have a robust and very widely deployed LTS platform together with a very widely supported release of OpenStack.”

Shuttleworth concluded, “Every dependency that Essex needs is exactly provided in 12.04 LTS, the way that all of the major public clouds based on OpenStack are using it. By adopting a common message on releases, we make both OpenStack and Ubuntu stronger, and do so in a way which is entirely transparent and accessible to other distributions.”

So is Ubuntu ready to take on RHEL? I think Ubuntu's getting to be a significant server player, but it's not at Red Hat's level yet. Red Hat is closing in on being the first pure-play Linux and open-source company with a billion in annual revenue. Canonical, while privately held, isn't in that ballpark yet. In addition, Web servers, which Shuttleworth uses as the foundation for his claim, are edge servers and not really enterprise servers as such.

Still, Canonical's flagship Linux is clearly adopted by more and more businesses. I can well believe that the race for being the number one Linux server in the 2010s might have Canonical and Ubuntu nipping at Red Hat's heels rather than SUSE or Oracle.

Related Stories:

Shuttleworth on the Ubuntu Linux 12.04 beta

What does Ubuntu want to be when it grows up?

Linux users cautiously optimistic about Ubuntu's Head-Up Display desktop

Oracle's Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel 2 arrives with Linux 3.0 kernel, btrfs SUSE ships Enterprise Linux SP2, the first under new management

Topics: Linux, Hardware, Open Source, Operating Systems, Servers, Software

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  • Is Ubuntu becoming a big name in enterprise Linux servers?


    Kudos to Ubuntu and Canonical
  • Is Ubuntu becoming a big name in enterprise Linux servers?

    Loverock Davidson-
    • Because...?

      Of course you have a perfectly good explanation for your comment, right?
      marc van hoff
      • That's not a comment

        While it may be always fun to pick on LD, that's not a comment. It's the answer to the question posed by SJVN.

        Let me also add

      • No, he's too stupid to have one

  • Shuttleworth is more of personal agenda.

    Forget Linux, everybody knows its orgin and its strength,somethings that deserves respect. But Shuttleworth... deserves no respect... he seems to have a personal agenda...
    • Oh please...

      And Red Hat doesn't have an agenda? ;-) owlinet, do you seriously think that companies behind the Linux or opensource bits do not have an agenda behind? you would be really surprised about Red Hat's ;-)
  • Simple answer: NO

    Ubuntu is not an enterprise quality distro. It is a novice quality distro.

    Anybody who claims the contrary is in complete denial about reality.
    • Novice because?

      Because I don't want to waste my day bit fiddling the system to get it to do what other OS vendors do out of the box. Please. Go back to your basement and listen to your mother.
  • Really?

    So we aren't considering the source of this? The man is the founder of the company selling Ubuntu, we would laugh at Steve Balmer were he to say something like this about windows phone usage!

    RHEL is still the linux production server of choice
  • It could be

    I have to question as to whether it should be or not. In my view, a good distro should do something really well. Shuttleworth should decide whether he wants that to be desktop or server. After that, he should focus on that until it becomes perfected.

    Apple and Microsoft need to make this decision as well.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • MS?

      Isn't MS doing fine with both Windows Server & Windows Client? 1 has a 70%+ share & the other a 90%+ share. Why should they take such a decision?
      • Why would they make such a decision?

        That's a very good question, though I do have to doubt your numbers on the server side. My sources point to it being more like... 36% for Microsoft.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • The server side is actually higher then 70%

        Michael Alan Goff, but not for web server usage. Windows as a web erver (IIS), you're right, it's about 36%, as anl infrastructure server, its something like 76%.
        William Farrel
      • @William Farrel

        To play Devil's Advocate here for a moment.

        What is the reason why internet servers are going with Unix/Linux as opposed to Windows?
        Michael Alan Goff
      • @Michael Alan Goff

        because it really only needs to do one simple thing - serve up web pages.

        If you're running Windows on the desktop, then it makes sense that most will go with Windows Server - AD for the control it gives over the desktop being the obvious reason. Add to that everything else it can do integrated into it it makes sense, and easy enough to do.

        Why spend the money for a Windows server just for IIS?

        It's like the Pizza Shop - you'll have your more expensive full size pickup to pick up supplies, get oven parts or equipment, fuel for the ovens, ect.

        To deliver the Pizza, all you need is a Ford Focus or the like.
        William Farrel
  • native debian is good enough : )

    for our business cloud we tried all popular virtualisation solutions: hyper-v, xen, vmware esxi, proxmox ve, virtualbox server (headless with phpVirtualbox) but the best and fastest way is still debian kvm server
    J.Я. DoЯN
    • Why is it that

      every time Steven writes something about Ubuntu, someone has to say their solution is better? This is better - that is better when better has nothing to do with the article?

      The article was fundementally about Ubuntu's gains in the Linux server world, not about what Linux server is good enough or better.

      Sounds like too many people just can't wait to blow their own horns.
      • How very true?

        "Sounds like too many people just can't wait to blow their own horns."
        ... and even some what ironic coming from one of the usual suspects on these blogs.

        But in context, to this blog, and the discussion of Linux in server space.
        It seems rather natural. Like the better known enterprise versions, RHEL, SLES & Oracle.
        Ubuntu has the advantages of corporate/commercial Support. Yet in some surveys Debian maybe the most deployed (Web server) and Ubuntu is #3 behind CentOS.

        I point to a couple of other recent blogs.

        and another by Steve
  • Ubuntu is heading down the Mac OS X route in the service space...

    Yes, they have a server version, and yes, it does some things the desktop version doesn't do (and vice-versa). Unfortunately, like Mac OS X Server, it is going to be seen as little more than a few server bits bolted onto a Desktop OS (and launching without a GUI does not a server OS make).

    Last week it was Hyper-V vs. VMware, this week it's Ubuntu vs. Red Hat. Only this time, the challenger has NO real enterprise experience under its belt.

    Good luck, Mark, you're going to need it.