Ubuntu isn’t just for desktops. Behind the scenes, corporate IT managers have put Ubuntu to work on servers. Don’t believe me? Well, I can name names. I can also tell you up front that Ubuntu Server gets high marks for its corporate support; easy backups, installs and upgrades; documentation, and more.
So I set out to find some IT pros who could talk about Ubuntu Server, which wasn’t hard. I just asked, “Who’s using Ubuntu?” in a SearchEnterpriseLinux.com newsletter. Here are some respondents’ views of Ubuntu Server, both positive and not-so-positive.
In the past, Linux has gotten dinged for poor corporate-level support; but Canonical Ltd. — Ubuntu’s corporate parent — got support right with Ubuntu’s Long Term Support (LTS), according to Jim Read, an IT administrator for a financial institution. “We have stuck with 6.06 LTS, and it has worked well,” Read said. If he changed support providers, he’d have to do major system reconstruction, but LTS 6.06 hasn’t given him a reason to consider a change.
Another common point in Ubuntu’s favor is its ease of use, particularly with upgrades and backups.
“Backups are so very simple, there is lots of advice about what to back up other than data so that server recovery is reasonably straightforward,” said Iain McKeand, IT systems administrator at Oxford Policy Management.
One admin has had such a smooth Ubuntu upgrading experience that he will upgrade even though he doesn’t have to. His Ubuntu servers “just sit there cranking” and don’t have to have “the latest stuff,” but he’s found that the Ubuntu upgrade process is painless and easy. “We’re going to upgrade the 6.06 machines within the next few months as time allows,” he said.
Ubuntu Server gets mixed reviews for ease of use in other categories.
Sometimes the need for manual system configuration outweigh the cost savings of using a Linux server, some IT pros say. You’ve got to know Linux pretty well to get the most out of Ubuntu.
Read has encountered problems with dependencies: “The largest issue I had was when I had to install an application from source to make sure I had all the dependencies that were needed to compile the source effectively.”
Linux-savvy admins can get around such problems, Read added. He recommends source applications on Ubuntu over graphical user interface-based ones. Though they take a long time to mount, source applications allow for more administrator control.
Some users have found Active Directory particularly easy to integrate with Ubuntu, but some have encountered problems. Those in the latter category say that previous releases of Ubuntu haven’t been easy to use with Microsoft Active Directory, particularly in authentication. They think the new Hardy Heron release should solve that.
On the positive side, Dan Smart, an IT admin at a Fortune 500 mining company, reported, “The new Active Directory integration is excellent. The application they use, Likewise Open, is so much easier than using the PAM Kerberos method or PAM WinBind method of authentication. Works seamlessly.”
McKeand also found that integration of Ubuntu and Active Directory was fairly straightforward and “has surely been easier year on year.”
Even Windows-friendly administrators have turned to Ubuntu. Ubuntu’s performance marks are very strong, said several of our respondents who have benchmarked it themselves against Windows servers. Some also said that their shops that run mostly Windows servers use Ubuntu for applications Windows does not support.
When compared with Windows, Ubuntu’s support and product pricing has attracted corporate IT managers. Jim Mirick of Automated Member Services Inc., said: “Our business would be quite different without Ubuntu, because we would have had to spend a lot of time and energy trying to mash more stuff onto one Windows box [due to budget limitations].”
Ubuntu Server has served some companies so well that they don’t want their competitors to know they use it. “We do both Linux and Windows, [as] I didn’t want to limit my opportunities,” explained an IT pro and respondent, who wished to remain anonymous. He stopped publicizing his decision to use Ubuntu as a core server technology because “I felt this was a competitive advantage.”
If you don’t have to keep your Ubuntu Server a secret, then write to us. Chime in with your Ubuntu Server stories in the comments section below or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.