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Introduction to "The Official Ubuntu Server Book, 3rd Edition"

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Benjamin "Mako" Hill and Kyle Rankin provide some background on FOSS, Ubuntu, and Ubuntu server as an introduction to the 3rd edition of The Official Ubuntu Server Book.
This chapter is from the book

This introduction gives an overview of Ubuntu and Ubuntu Server. After a quick welcome, it includes a brief history of free software, open source, and GNU/Linux and of the Ubuntu project itself, with a focus on some of the major players on the Ubuntu scene. This introduction ends where the rest of this book will continue: with a history of the Ubuntu Server project and an overview of that project’s goals and accomplishments.

Welcome to Ubuntu Server

In the just over eight years of its life, Ubuntu has become one of the most popular GNU/Linux-based operating systems. In the process, however, public perception has been disproportionately focused on Ubuntu’s role as a desktop-based operating system. While all popularity is certainly welcome for those of us involved in the project, this success has, at times, overshadowed the rock-solid server operating system that Ubuntu has been constructed to be. For those of us who have helped build out Ubuntu’s server-specific features and who use it daily, this is both unfortunate and undeserved. Designed and used as a server since day one, Ubuntu has supported a server team that was one of the first active teams in the Ubuntu community and has been one of the most successful. Although perceptions have changed in large part, many prospective users—and even some current Ubuntu users—often continue to think of Ubuntu as something for desktops.

Perhaps it is just that people are so surprised at the usability of Ubuntu on the desktop—especially in the early days when expectations for desktop GNU/Linux distributions were low—that the public focus naturally has drifted away from Ubuntu’s server offering. Lots of other GNU/Linux distributions run great on servers, but a solid desktop experience continues to be surprising to many users. As a result, when people talk about Ubuntu, they often tend to talk about desktops. Perhaps, on the other hand, people just figured that such a well-polished desktop must have come at the cost of the server-oriented features and support. Of course, no such sacrifices were made.

To a large extent, times have changed. The Ubuntu Server team has continued its tireless work both to improve the experience for server users of Ubuntu and to help promote Ubuntu as a server solution. Documentation, testimonials, certification of server-based software, support contracts from a variety of sources, training courses, and more have all contributed to remaking Ubuntu into a powerful player on the server. Although its desktop credentials have not been diminished, Ubuntu’s server chops are increasingly difficult to overlook. Over the past two years, Ubuntu has begun to become a major player in the GNU/Linux server market.

More than anything else, testimonials have spread and the small group of early Ubuntu Server users has spread the word. More and more people choose Ubuntu for their servers every day. In fact, this book is simply the latest striking example of just how far Ubuntu on servers has come. Not only do people now know that Ubuntu runs on a server, they know it runs well. This book is publishable only because there is a market for it. That market is made up of people who have heard good things about Ubuntu on the server and who are getting ready to take the plunge themselves. Welcome. We hope we can help make the process easier. We’ve come a long way, and we’re still only just beginning.

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