From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Magic Number 4

We're less than two weeks away from the next Ubuntu Developer Summit, in Orlando, Florida, where nearly 700 techies will define the enterprise Linux landscape for the next decade.
You: "Come on, Dustin, you're being a bit melodramatic, here, no?"
Me: "Heh, if anything, I may be understating the importance of the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS!"
When it comes to enterprise operating systems, there's a certain magic aurora that surrounds the number, "4".  Let's take a stroll through enterprise operating systems history...

Anyone here remember Windows NT4?  You can hate Microsoft and Windows all you want, but in 1996, NT4 became the first Windows release in 11 years that delivered an enterprise-ready server.  I was in high school working for a little PC outfit called Alpha Computer Company in Plaquemine, Louisiana, and we installed NT4 servers by the hundreds.  For all its faults and security vulnerabilities, server administration had never been point-and-click easier.

I have infinite respect for RHEL4!  I was a Red Hat and Fedora user for 10 years between 1997 and 2006 (when I switched to Ubuntu), and ran nearly every version from Red Hat 5 through Fedora Core 5, as well as RHEL2.1 and RHEL3.  It was RHEL4 in 2005 that was pure gold!  The features, the stability -- this was the first enterprise Linux release anywhere that was ready for prime time.  And it's still a great OS nearly 7 years later.  There's no shortage of hosting companies still running RHEL4.x + cPanel out there.

I dabbled in Solaris just a little in high school and eventually in my Computer Science courses at Texas A&M University.  Guess what Solaris was called, before it was rebranded in 1993?  Yep, SunOS4 became the first Solaris!  I dare say that Sun cranked out the dominant UNIX implementation right up until OpenSolaris tanked spectacularly and the aforementioned RHEL4 stole the Linux/UNIX show.

I also served 8 years hard time at IBM, where we danced to a slightly different UNIX tune -- that of AIX.  Once again, it was the AIX4 release series that established AIX as a UNIX mainstay and rose to the level of expectations of IBM customers.  AIX4 shifted the focus to IBM's innovative PowerPC processors, introduced CDE, IPv6 (remarkably in 1997!), and everyone's favorite text-based system management utility, smitty ;-)

With all this talk about UNIX, we certainly cannot overlook SVR4.  UNIX System V Release 4.0 in 1988 was basically the last (SVR5 was a SCO disaster, and SVR6 was cancelled) of the great UNIX specification releases, feeding into all of the proprietary and open UNIX distributions, from Sun, to HP, to IBM, to DEC, to the various BSD derived distributions.  SVR4 was the beginning of a new era of UNIX computing, and its legacy runs right up to our doorsteps today.

And here we are, just 6 months away from the fourth Ubuntu LTS.  Reflecting back a bit, Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (Dapper) was the first long term supported, enterprise release, and the introduction of Ubuntu as a Server platform.  Support for Dapper just ended in June of this year (2011), and provided Ubuntu users with some rock-solid stability, if lacking a bit on some modern Linux features.  The Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy) release (the first cycle on which I worked the Ubuntu Server for Canonical) introduced the enterprise Linux industry to KVM as a hypervisor and refined our ability to deliver a long term supported, heavily QA'd server release.  Hardy is still supported for another 1.5 years, and I know of many Ubuntu Server installations happily cranking along on Hardy (including my own  Ubuntu 10.04 LTS defined the IaaS cloud market, providing a fully-functional, 100% open source cloud infrastructure with UEC, and absolutely rewrote the industry's books on Linux as a cloud guest operating system.

It's quite easy to see the progression of the Ubuntu LTS Server, from 6.06 to 8.04 to 10.04.  With that kind of momentum behind us, coupled with history's emphasis on "4th" releases of operating systems, can you imagine the quality, features, and industry impact of Ubuntu's LTS4?  I'm just beginning to wrap my head around it, and it's damn exciting!

Personally, I can't wait for UDS, to help get that chapter of history underway.



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