Interview with the team leader of the Ubuntu Server Project

Ubuntu server Grazie al prezioso aiuto di Luca Lizzeri, pubblico la traduzione in inglese dell'intervista a Fabio Massimo Di Nitto:

With a messagge dated 14 december 2005 the Ubuntu server team was officially created. This group of programmers has the task of creating a server-specific version of Ubuntu Linux. This is particularly interesting, since up to now the Debian-based distro has been desktop-oriented. That's why I decided to ask some question to Fabio Massimo Di Nitto server team "owner":

Hi Fabio, can you tell us something about you ?

Fabio Massimo Di Nitto: Certainly, I'm Italian, was born in Rome 30 years ago but since 5 years ago I live in Denmark and I'm married with a child coming ;)

I am a happy Linux user since 1997/8 (if memory doesn't fail me ;)), I started actively contributing in 2001. I partecipated in many projects and sub-projects for Debian, from ipv6 to apache, probably google knows more about it than I can remember off-hand.

One day I had the great luck (and I admit it shamelessly!) of being contacted by Mark Shuttleworth, and in short period we started living this great adventure. It's been a bit like winning the lottery. For Ubuntu I mantained XFree86 and Xorg (for some weeks only), the kernel and I did some small jobs here and there (installer and cluster mainly).

Why an Ubuntu server version?

Fabio Massimo Di Nitto: There's much confusion about it, and many rumors that don't have much to do with the reality of Ubuntu "Server". The first thing of note is that all Ubuntu-offered software comes from one repository. There are no desktop and server-specific repositories. For example, the desktop and server version share the installer.
A point worthy of note is that all packages present on the Ubuntu server CD were already supported by us in previous Ubuntu versions (or almost all, if I remember correctly).

The first difference is in the CD contents. I hope that the desktop version doesn't need an explanation, while the "Server" CD instead of having packages like X, Gnome or KDE has all those packages that can be useful on a server: Apache2, Bind9 and so on. This is only for the users' comfort, nothing more. In theory, using a Desktop CD with a minimal installationa and installing, for example, apache2 from the network, one can obtain the exact same result that can be obtained by inserting the Server CD and installing apache2 from the cd-rom. This is going to change slightly in the future, for dapper.

What kind of added features will Ubuntu Server have ?

Fabio Massimo Di Nitto: After the first release of the Ubuntu Server CD with breezy, we had a strong demand for extending the scope of the project and we decided to concentrate on the quality of the server-specific packages and on adding features that we thing can be more useful for an administrator. The technical goals for dapper are:

    - an optimized kernel that will be installed automatically from the CD and will also be available for a network installation.

    - better selection of packages available from the CD.

    - 5 years support (against 3 years for the desktop version).

The complete list of what we wish to include is public and everyone is invited to participate::
We also ave an ubuntu-server mailing list and the irc channel irc #ubuntu-server
( for people who want to participate more actively.

Why should a system administrator switch from RedHat, Suse or Debian to Ubuntu server?

Fabio Massimo Di Nitto: It's very hard to answer without unleashing a distro-war :) and one answer will never cover all possible aspects ... As leader of the Ubuntu server project I can tell you that:

    - Ubuntu Dapper Server will be released on the 20th of April 2006 and will be supported for 5 years. 5 years of updates (security included) without spending one euro.

    - all users can interact directly with us. Mark is often on IRC as are all Ubuntu developers (me included) and the community that has formed around Ubuntu.

    - our wikis/processes/forums/mailinglists are all public and freely accessible.

    - the quality of the packages is already very high, and it will get better before dapper's release.

As a user (*) I tell you that:

    - my breezy servers never gave any bother.

    - I always found what I was looking for in the repository. No hand-compiled packages, which means big time savings, for me.

    - other friends use similar solutions on their servers.

    - the entire Canonical/Ubuntu data center runs on Ubuntu ;)

(*) I am strongly convinced that to be a good developer one needs to be the first user of what he develops. Quality will suffer, otherwise.

As a forme sysadmin I have to tell you that changing a distro can be a hard and boring job, and can give many problems (different config files, missing software in a distro, etc etc). There can be one/ten/one hundred reasons why a sysadmin changes distro or stays with what he has. Technical, philosophical or "religious" reasons.

The fact that there are so many distributions around is a clear sign of the fact that many users/sysadmins have differing needs, and that any effort to please everyone will never be enough to satisfy everyone's needs.

It's my experience that no sysadmin should change distro if he is happy with what he has. As a sysadmin I chose Ubuntu Server because it satisfies my needs without giving me any problems. The only way to know whether distro B is better than distro A is to try both of them out. I can only encourage you to test as meny distros as you can, and then choos. It's a very important process for a sysadmin, even if it can be frustrating, at times. Find the distro that best satisfies your needs. Only, don't forget to inclede Ubuntu in your tests ;)

Can you tell me something about the release plans for the next versions?

Fabio Massimo Di Nitto: Certainly, Ubuntu Server will follow the exact same Release Plan as Ubuntu. No difference :)

For people who haven't read the previous answer or are preparing a war for the best distro, Ubuntu Dapper and Ubuntu Dapper Server will be released on the 20th of April 2006 (including the various Kubuntu, Edubuntu, etc). You can find details here:

Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Ubuntu Server, do you think we can expect a version for hand-helds ?

Fabio Massimo Di Nitto: Probably yes. There are strong noises in this regard in the community. As demonstrated by the Server project, one thing leads to another ...

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