Wandering Thoughts archives

2024-04-29

Our likely long term future (not) with Ubuntu (as of early 2024)

Over on the Fediverse I said something that's probably not particularly surprising:

In re Canonical and Ubuntu: at work we are still using Ubuntu LTS (and we're going to start using 24.04), but this is on servers where we don't have to deal with snaps (we turn them off, they don't work in our environment). But the Canonical monetization drive is obvious and the end point is inevitable, so I expect we'll wind up on Debian before too many more years (depending on what Canonical does to LTS releases). 2026? 2028? Who knows.

wrt: <a post by @feoh>

(Work is a university department where we use physical servers in our own machine rooms and don't have the funding to pay for commercial support for anywhere near all of those servers.)

The 2026 and 2028 dates come from the expected next Ubuntu LTS release dates (which since 2008 have been every two years toward the end of April). It's always possible that Canonical could do something that unexpectedly forces us off Ubuntu LTS 22.04 and 24.04 before 2026 comes around and we have to make a decision again, but it seems somewhat unlikely (the obvious change would be to lock a lot of security updates behind 'Ubuntu Pro', effectively making the non-paid versions of Ubuntu LTS unsupported for most security fixes).

One potential and seemingly likely change that would force us to move away from Ubuntu would be Canonical changing important non-GUI packages to be Snaps instead of .debs that can be installed through apt (they've already moved important GUI packages to Snaps, but we are so far living without them). Snaps simply don't work in our environment and if Canonical forced us, we would rather move to Debian than to try to hack up Ubuntu and our NFS based environment to make them work (for the moment, until Canonical changes something that breaks our hacks). Another potential change that I keep expecting is for Canonical to more or less break the server installer in non-cloud environments, or to require them to provide emulations of cloud facilities (such as something to supply system metadata).

But in the long term I don't think the specific breaking changes are worth trying to predict. The general situation is that Canonical is a commercial company that is out to make money (lots of money), and free Ubuntu LTS for servers (or for anything) is a loss leader. The arc of loss leaders bends towards death, whether it be through obvious discontinuation, deliberate crippling, or simply slow strangulation from lack of resources. Sooner or later we'll have to move off Ubuntu; the only big questions are how soon and how much notice we'll have.

Should we jump before we have to? That may be a question we'll be asking ourselves in 2026, or maybe 2025 when the next Debian release will probably come out.

(Our answer for Ubuntu 24.04 LTS is that there's nothing in 24.04 so far that forces us to think about it so we're going to roll on with the default of continuing with Ubuntu LTS releases.)

UbuntuOurLikelyLongtermFuture written at 23:34:24; Add Comment


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