End of April 2010, Ubuntu 10.04 was released. As always it is based on Debian’s Testing-Release. Canonical “stabilizes” the testing tree of Debian and adds its own look.
This time, Ubuntu radically changed its look. From my point of view it looks ugly, very ugly. Strange colors, low contrasts in menus, orange icons in Nautilus… window buttons on the left side… At the end of the day an usability-horror.
Under the hood Ubuntu is a very stable distribution with recent software. Ubuntu 10.04 is a LTS (Long Term Support) version and is thus suited as a enterprise server. Support for the server variant of Ubuntu is five years. Ubuntu is – like Debian – capable to upgrade to a new major release w/o service interruption.
You “can” mirror Debian and Ubuntu repositories locally but it is difficult if you to not like to mirror all architectures available. Unfortunately there is (AFAIK) no software available such as Spacewalk/RHN Satellite to manage your servers.
The best method is to allow each single system installed to talk directly or via proxy to the mirror servers. This is a nightmare for firewall administrators.
To my knowledge there is no convenient way to install Ubuntu over the net. There are rumors that spacewalk and cobbler is going to get Debian/Ubuntu support at some time.
Debian and thus Ubuntu has an evidence to be reliable. This also seems to be true for the current release 10.04. The software came from Debians testing repository but was stabilized during months. Canonical (The sponsor of Ubuntu) has a reputation for its quality management. To use Ubuntu as a server operating system is sane.
As a desktop operating system I’ll avoid Ubuntu, since the usability is focused on dummy-users and not professional Linux users. For server usage you need to ask yourself about your needs. If you are operating Oracle DB’s or other commercial applications you probably want install Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). For a web server Ununtu is very well suited, even better than RHEL. In two years there will be another LTS variant available and you are free to upgrade online. Reliability is very good, manageability is poor, especially when used in larger companies.
In short: Ubuntu for web servers, RHEL/CentOS for other servers.
As always: Feedback is welcome…