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This chapter is from the book

History of Ubuntu Server

The first “production” machines to run Ubuntu were Canonical’s own development machines in its data center in London. In this sense, Ubuntu has been used on servers since day one, and Ubuntu has always been a server operating system. Of course, as we hinted in the welcome at the beginning of this Introduction, this has not always been universally recognized. After the first release, public perception was tilted so far toward the idea of Ubuntu as a desktop release that when the developers convened the first of their biannual developer summits after the first full release cycle, one of the most important items on the agenda was thinking about Ubuntu on servers and how to support it.

The Ubuntu Server project, as a result, was at least as much a marketing project as it was a technical project. Sure, there were ways that the team could make Ubuntu better for servers—and they spent plenty of time working and thinking about that—but the biggest problem they faced was simply communicating the message that Ubuntu already was great for servers to all their users and potential users.

Eventually Canonical funded the creation of a graphical installer, but in the first few releases there was just a single, nongraphical installer based on Debian’s very descriptively named Debian Installer project. In the initial Ubuntu release, a user installing Ubuntu was given a choice between two modes: “Desktop”—which was self-explanatory enough—and “Custom.” Custom, in the minds of the early developers, was what anyone would want for a server. Custom installed just the bare minimum set of packages and then put the users into this base install and prompted them to install the packages that they wanted on their system. It provided users with the bare-bones system and encouraged them to customize it. The first action of the Ubuntu Server project was purely superficial: The “Custom” install was renamed “Server.” Although no code had changed, Ubuntu Server almost immediately began getting more recognition. If one had to pick a single point in time that the Ubuntu Server project was born, it would be this moment.

Ubuntu Server isn’t actually any different from other flavors of Ubuntu. As the desktop has moved on to a new graphical installer based on a live CD, Ubuntu Server has its own installer that gives users access to features like RAID and LVM that are much more interesting to server users. Certainly, there are some pieces of software that are likely to end up on servers and unlikely to end up on desktops—things like Web servers and mail servers. When we say that the server edition will be supported, we mean these applications plus the core, so it certainly seems most accurate to refer to these as being within the purview of Ubuntu Server.

But at the end of the day, the server and desktop packages come out of a single repository. This fact, plus the integration among the teams of people working on different parts of the project—most core developers work on bits and pieces that get used and reused in server, desktop, and other editions—introduces a fuzziness that makes it hard to pin down just what Ubuntu Server is. Of course, it also means that Ubuntu Server gets to benefit from the work, bug reporting, and bug fixing in those core parts of the operating system that every Ubuntu user shares.

Ubuntu Server now can roughly be interpreted to refer to a collection of resources that are particularly aimed at and used by server users. Most obviously, it involves the custom install discs that you’ll be using when you install Ubuntu Server on your machine. It also refers to the collections of supported software that are installed primarily on servers—most of the software that the rest of this book will discuss in more detail. It also refers to a mass of documentation, to which this book represents the latest addition, that provides answers to questions. In a broader sense, certifications of software and training programs for administrators occupy another point in the growing Ubuntu Server constellation.

But most of all, and in the Ubuntu tradition, Ubuntu Server refers to a community. It’s a community of developers who use Ubuntu on servers, who care deeply about Ubuntu on servers, and who work tirelessly to make sure that Ubuntu performs as well as possible on servers everywhere. Of course, Ubuntu Server also refers to the growing community of people who are primarily not contributing through code but who are at least as important. These people spend time in the support of IRC channels, send e-mail to the mailing lists, and post in the forums. These users help other users, file bugs, may contribute their own fixes to documentation, and contribute in myriad ways and in a variety of venues.

When you “graduate” beyond what this book can teach you, Ubuntu represents those people who will help you take your next steps. They are the people described in more depth in the server resources chapter (Chapter 13) of this book. This is the group you will join when you participate in the Ubuntu project. Let us be the first to welcome to you to the Ubuntu Server community.

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