The new Ubuntu Server does all the usual Linux server edge jobs -- Web and mail services -- and common line of business jobs like file and print. But, it also includes improved virtualization with the new version of KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) and easier integration with Microsoft AD (Active Directory).
Yes, you read that right. The new Ubuntu, both on the server and the desktop side, will now work and play better with AD. According to Steve George, Canonical's Director of Corporate Services, Ubuntu will be pulling this trick because it will be incorporating Likewise Open and Samba 3.3 support.
Likewise Open enables your Ubuntu servers and desktops to AD domains and forests with a single sign-on that works both for the AD and the Linux side of your network. Samba 3.3 adds over-all improvements in compatibility between Linux servers and clients and AD-based network services.
Ubuntu 9.04 also has some interesting virtualization improvements. Besides better KVM support, the server will be available to users on Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud).
That's neat, but what I think is really much more interesting is that with Ubuntu 9.04 you'll be able to build your own EC2-compatible cloud on your own servers. This way, you can get a feel for how cloud computing might work for you without worrying with the data and security issues of actually trusting your data and processing to Amazon or another external provider.
As Jane Silber, Canonical's COO said, "With 9.04, larger businesses are now able to deploy Ubuntu in their production environments, and preview the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud." Exactly. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first operating system that comes cloud-ready out of the box. For that alone, I think anyone considering moving to cloud computing should give Ubuntu a try. It's a perfect way to find out for yourself in the safety of your own network whether cloud computing is for you.
Further showing that Canonical is quite earnest about making Ubuntu a business operating system, the new Ubuntu also includes AMQP (Advanced Message Queuing Protocol) support. AMQP is an important set of middleware and SOA (service-oriented architecture) protocols. Red Hat is the only other Linux distributor that has made a particular point of supporting it until now.
Why is Canonical adding all this big-business functionality to a six-month release? George explained that, "While it's a year away from the next LTS (Long Term Service) release, we want to make sure we get the integration right now to help with the LTS. Our customers already want serious business support so we're being driven by our customers to get it to them now. So, we're listening to both our community and our business customers."
One last part of that listening to business is that Canonical has been working with HP to get Ubuntu server certified on its ProLiant server lines Ubuntu is already ready certified on some other HP, Dell, and IBM servers, and on VMware virtual platforms.
I couldn't say that Canonical is ready to go head to head with Red Hat for the king of the Linux server hill ... this year. I can say, though, that that's exactly what Canonical is planning to do by next year. There are interesting times ahead friends.