Ubuntu’s Hardy Heron Makes Splashy Landing

Months of eager anticipation came to an end Thursday with the long-awaited release of Ubuntu Hardy Heron.

Both desktop and server editions of Ubuntu 8.04 were released as free downloads, and both are Long Term Support (LTS) releases, meaning that they come with commercial support for five years on the server and three years on the desktop.

Ubuntu sponsor Canonical also announced that Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server Edition is certified on several high-performance, energy-efficient Sun x64 server platforms, including the Sun Fire X2100 M2, X2200 M2 and Sun Fire X4150 servers.

Firefox Inside

First released in 2004, Ubuntu is a Linux-based operating system designed for general consumers. Hardy Heron is the eighth desktop version of the software released since then, and it is the first to include Mozilla Firefox 3 (Beta 5).

Gutsy Gibbon was the last release before Hardy Heron.

The desktop version of Hardy Heron also features an enhanced default photo manager as well as improved camera and phone recognition to give users a better photo experience. Other improvements include enhanced music sharing and downloading, better video support and new productivity enhancements.

In addition, Hardy Heron combines the latest GNOME applications with desktop visual effects, giving users a smoother, better-looking and more intuitive experience, Canonical said.

“Ubuntu’s polished, user-focused version of the Linux desktop has built itself a wide enough following to compel significant ISV interest and support,” said Stephen O’Grady, principal analyst at Redmonk. “By coupling a very capable desktop offering with long-term support options, Ubuntu is becoming an increasingly viable option for enterprises as well as consumers.”

Server Edition

On the server side, meanwhile, Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server Edition is the fourth server release from Canonical. It features an expanded range of network infrastructure applications and enhanced security with integrated AppArmor policies and increased kernel hardening.

The server version also offers integrated host firewalling and an increased range of storage capabilities, including iSCSI and DRBD.

Windows Active Directory integration via LikeWise Open is standard in the release, which also adds KVM for hosting virtualization of applications and operating systems.

“Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server Edition is built for business,” said Jane Silber, COO of Canonical. “This release brings together significant feature and stability improvements to a free and open platform. Ubuntu 8.04 LTS is at the center of a growing ecosystem of applications that serve businesses of all sizes extremely well.”

‘A Good Step’

Hardy Heron’s server version “continues Canonical’s efforts and aspirations to move some of Ubuntu’s desktop success onto the server,” Jay Lyman, an analyst with the 451 Group, told LinuxInsider.

Likely target users of the release are midsize and smaller organizations, Lyman added. Since so many of those companies already use Microsoft Windows, “greater integration with Windows makes sense,” he noted.

Canonical would like to see more preinstallation of its software, but the certification on Sun platforms is a “good step,” Lyman said. Succeeding on the server side is a “big challenge,” he noted, because of the dominance of Red Hat and Novell in that space.

Stability and Performance

On the desktop, meanwhile, “they continue to do a good job of making Linux good-looking and easier to use,” Lyman added. “Each iteration has a little bit better support for WiFi, video and other things that people do.”

The release offers all the “usual improvements we’d expect from a regular Ubuntu release,” Lyman said. “It might not be as blockbuster as the last one, but stability and performance are big keys here, especially because it’s an LTS version.”

Indeed, Ubuntu is “going from strength to strength, and has tremendous momentum,” Bernard Golden, CEO of open source management company Navica, told LinuxInsider.

One of the traditional “sticking points” for Linux on the desktop has been hardware support and driver availability, Golden noted. Now, however, “that seems like it’s reaching a tipping point,” he said.

Attracting New Users

Increasing numbers of device manufacturers are beginning to decide that the market has become big enough to justify focusing on it, he explained. “That’s the result of the hard work of many Linux evangelists,” he said. “Ubuntu has been a very critical part of that, and now it’s bearing fruit.”

While Hardy Heron won’t cause corporate America to begin throwing out Windows and adopting it instead, it will result in additional Ubuntu installations, Golden predicted.

“It’s a long-term gradual growth, and someday it will hit a tipping point,” he concluded. “It’s all part of the onward march of Linux in general and Ubuntu specifically.”

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