Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix 12.04 LTS

Two weeks after the release of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Long Term Support) in May 2012, Canonical published the first update of its Business Desktop Remix enterprise variant. Canonical first released this remix in version 11.10 with the aim of providing an Ubuntu counterpart to the enterprise desktop products by Red Hat and SUSE. In version 12.04, the Business Desktop Remix became the LTS standard and is thus a potential alternative to commercial enterprise desktops by Red Hat (RHEL for Desktops) and SUSE (SLED – SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) thanks to Canonical’s five-year support guarantee.

A quick check of the candidate’s features on paper shows that any comparison with the other enterprise desktops is misleading. For one thing, Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix is available free of charge after registration, in contrast to RHEL and SLED; for another, the distribution isn’t actually much different from a regular Ubuntu distribution. In terms of the installation, there is actually no difference apart from the welcome screen. In contrast, the enterprise versions of SUSE and Red Hat vary considerably from openSUSE and Fedora.

Advantage Ubuntu

Within the scope of the Advantage program, Canonical also optionally offers a commercial support program (Figure 1) for server, desktop, and cloud services or products.

Figure 1: Ubuntu Advantage offers clear-cut, commercial support for Ubuntu.

This means that at least our overview of the current crop of enterprise desktops now contains a server and a desktop variant of Ubuntu (Table 1).

Additionally, Canonical offers customers a kind of insurance, dubbed “Ubuntu Assurance,” against patent claims arising from the use of Ubuntu in the scope of its Advantage program. Canonical ensures its Advantage customers both legal defense and absorption of all costs. In the context of the Advantage program, Canonical’s Landscape for centralized management of Ubuntu installations is also worthy of note (see the “Landscape” box).

Business Desktop Remix Examined

The 32- and 64-bit versions of the Business Desktop Remix for x86 systems are available for downloading after registration. Technically, Ubuntu Business Desktop 12.04 is no different from the standard version – in contrast to desktop products by Red Hat and SUSE.

According to Canonical, the aim of Ubuntu Desktop Remix is to provide administrators with a foundation that they can customize for their own purposes. This explains why Canonical has mainly removed games, applications that connect to social networks, file-sharing tools, and a number of other programs and utilities from the Business Desktop Remix distribution. These programs basically address home users.

To make up for these missing items, Canonical has given its business variant a number of applications that are useful in the enterprise, for example, the Adobe Flash Plugin, OpenJDK, and VMware View or support for MS Windows RDP 7.1 in the form of the Remmina remote desktop client (Figure 2). The universal Remote Desktop client also uses plugins to support the protocols for VNC, NX, Telepathy, or XDMCP in addition to RDP.

Figure 2: Remmina is a versatile, powerful, and extensible remote desktop client.

Of course, you could do all of these things with a regular Ubuntu variant, but Ubuntu Desktop Remix saves the administrator a fair amount of work by removing games and home applications. And, administrators will probably appreciate the useful utilities, such as a LibreOffice import filter for Microsoft Visio.

Conclusions

Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix initially sounds like an interesting and inexpensive alternative to enterprise versions by SUSE and Red Hat. Updates are free of charge from Canonical – for a period of five years if you have an LTS version. You can purchase support as needed, and US$ 105 will see you safe in the standard version. But, this is true of any Ubuntu version.

Canonical’s philosophy for the Business Desktop Remix, which is that of supplying a distribution for enterprise use, is well-founded. The benefits for the user are simplicity of use, free software, certified proprietary applications, and no virus worries. A customized Ubuntu variant could check all these boxes; however, if you look closer, Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix isn’t all that customized.

This point is not intended as a criticism of what is undoubtedly a nicely crafted distribution but simply a statement of fact: What you have here is a normal Ubuntu LTS version, mainly designed as a marketing instrument to make “business” users take more notice of what is a very popular distribution with home users. But, Canonical does not really need to do this, considering its fair support offering. That said, there is definitely more potential in a desktop variant of Ubuntu with enterprise-level optimizations.

Whatever you choose to call it, a regular Ubuntu LTS combined with the Advantage Support package and the Landscape management software is a very cohesive solution for deployment in small businesses, even if the server side of the equation is not already running Ubuntu.

Info

[1] “Red Hat Satellite Server” by James Dade, ADMIN, Issue 09, pg. 60

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