Canonical has announced new enterprise features in the latest update to Ubuntu, designed to enable the software to compete head on with Microsoft Windows by targeting private cloud projects and adding smartphone-like user interface functionality.
Jane Silber, chief executive of Canonical, said that the 11.04 release, which will be available next week, was timed to capitalise on accelerating corporate adoption of Ubuntu.
“Ubuntu 11.04 offers exciting opportunities for businesses to improve the reliability, security and manageability of desktop, cloud and server deployments, challenging the traditional licence or subscription fee model and embracing open source technology,” she said.
Originally codenamed Natty Narwhal, the release includes Ubuntu Server 11.04, which has been designed to offer an affordable alternative for companies looking to build private clouds compatible with Amazon’s public cloud EC2 infrastructure.
A version will be available on Amazon’s EC2 on the day of release for users to trial for free for an hour.
The server version also includes the OpenStack Cactus release as a technology preview, which can be downloaded through the Ubuntu software repositories.
Having only joined OpenStack officially early in February, the inclusion of this release positions Ubuntu as the operating system of choice for cloud computing environments built using the open source cloud stack of software components.
The addition of cobbler and mcollective for server provisioning adds enterprise-class control, and PowerNap 2.0 for power control is touted as being able to typically reduce power consumption by 14 per cent.
The package handling early initialisation of cloud instances, cloud-init, has been updated to version 0.60 to enable resizing and hostname attribution at first boot.
On the corporate desktop, a new custom-developed and simplified user interface called Unity is introduced as an alternative to the classic Ubuntu interface, designed to replicate desktop functionality on cut-down PC form factors like smartphones and tablets and offer classic interface users a clear upgrade path.
Unity mode provides a new interface on graphics cards with OpenGL support, making its first appearance in this release. While users still have the choice of retaining the classic interface, the company said it will become the only interface for all users in the next long-term support release in April 2012.
Users of Ubuntu on netbooks will be familiar with Unity, having been using the interface since the release of the Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10 last October. Unity moves the operating system off the Gnome 2.0 desktop interface or the Gnome 3.0 Shell to the Ubuntu Unity shell with the Compiz window manager.
In addition, the new Linux kernel, 2.6.30, includes AppArmor in-kernel support for improved security, support for Intel’s Intelligent Power Sharing driver-based power management mechanism and filesystem improvements to btrfs, Ext4 and XFS.
The new kernel also delivers driver and hardware support updates, an extensive bug fix, an update to the libvirt virtualisation application programming interface and a revised default dhcpd server upgraded from dhcp3 to isc-dhcp (version 4) for dynamic host configuration.
Ubuntu 11.04 and Ubuntu Server 11.04 will be available for download from 28 April.
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