​Mark Shuttleworth reveals Ubuntu 18.04 will get a 10-year support lifespan

Ubuntu Linux founder Mark Shuttleworth talks about Ubuntu, OpenStack, competition with Red Hat, and Canonical's forthcoming IPO.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

At OpenStack Summit in Berlin, Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth said in a keynote that Ubuntu 18.04 Long Term Support (LTS) support lifespan would be extended from five years to 10 years.

"I'm delighted to announce that Ubuntu 18.04 will be supported for a full 10 years," said Shuttleworth, "In part because of the very long time horizons in some of industries like financial services and telecommunications but also from IoT where manufacturing lines for example are being deployed that will be in production for at least a decade."

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Ubuntu 18.04 released in April 2018. While the Ubuntu desktop gets most of the ink, most of Canonical's dollars comes from server and cloud customers. It's for these corporate users Canonical first extended Ubuntu 12.04 security support, then Ubuntu 14.04's support, and now, preemptively, Ubuntu 18.04. In an interview after the keynote, Shuttleworth said Ubuntu 16.04, which is scheduled to reach its end of life in April 2021, will also be given a longer support life span.

When it comes to OpenStack, Shuttleworth promised again to support versions of OpenStack dating back to 2014's IceHouse. Shuttleworth said, "What matters isn't day two, what matters is day 1,500."

He also doubled-down on Canonical's promise to easily enable OpenStack customers to migrate from one version of OpenStack to another. Generally speaking, upgrading from one version of OpenStack is like a root canal: Long and painful but necessary.

With Canonical OpenStack, you can step up all the way from the oldest supported version to the newest one with no more than a second of downtime. That's amazing.

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Shuttleworth also said in his keynote that, in the past two years, Canonical had been getting Red Hat customers coming Ubuntu's way. In our discussion, he explained that companies have been coming to Canonical not to replace existing Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) or OpenShift deployments, but to expand into new technology areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT), edge computing, and machine learning/artificial intelligence (ML/AI).

However, Shuttleworth foresees IBM buying Red Hat may lead to customers switching to Ubuntu. "We're neutral on the public cloud. We work at arm's length with AWS, Azure, and Google. We provide a common currency across different environment. But, we're not the lowest common denominator. We want to be the best operating system on Azure for Azure, AWS for AWS, and so on."

He sees Red Hat as Canonical's only real competition in the enterprise Linux and cloud spaces. From where Shuttleworth sits, "SUSE's stronghold is SAP," but SUSE rarely competes head-to-head with Canonical and vice-versa.

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He also disclosed that Canonical is still aiming at an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in 2019. This is not on a set schedule. Instead, it will happen when the company meets the metrics he's set.

"We have work to do. The team knows what work we still need to do. We're growing up at a company. Recent changes in the market is bringing this time closer." Before Canonical IPOs, he plans on bringing in growth equity from private-equity companies. Shuttleworth has started talking with private equity advisors to get things ready to bring in a cash infusion.

So, all-in-all, Shuttleworth sees a bright future ahead for both Canonical and its underlying Ubuntu Linux, container, and cloud technologies.

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