With the release of SIRIS 3, we’ve updated the Ubuntu operating system to version 16.04 (from 12.04). The primary motivation for the upgrade was ongoing support for the Debian-based Linux OS, but we are more excited about the new features this version brings to the table.
Ubuntu 16.04 is a long-term support (LTS) version, which means guaranteed support from Canonical for five years after its release. New versions of Ubuntu Server are released every six months, and LTS versions are released every two years. Because it is an LTS update, 16.04 will receive security updates and critical patches until April 2021.
“That’s the main reason that we moved to 16.04. 12.04 support ends in 2017,” said Philipp Heckel, Principal Software Engineer at Datto. “However, we are excited about the new kernel. Among other things, it offers support for 10 Gigabit Ethernet and the KVM hypervisor.”
Both were important for the ongoing evolution of the SIRIS platform. SIRIS 3 is the first iteration of the device that ships with 10 GigE NICs for increased throughput. It also runs KVM, unlike previous versions that used the VirtualBox hypervisor. Native support for KVM means that the hypervisor can inherit features and patches upstream from the Linux kernel for improved security. And, as a kernel-based hypervisor, it runs on bare metal rather than accessing the hardware as an application via the operating system for better performance.
Additionally, the new kernel has improved support for the Intel Skylake processor architecture, which allowed for hardware upgrades, according to Heckel. And, it offers improved hardware support for Datto’s SIRIS 3 Imaged, which allows users to convert an even wider array of existing hardware into a full-featured SIRIS device.
Ubuntu 16.04 also supports PHP 7, which Heckel says opens up a lot of new opportunities. “PHP 7 important. It’s big jump from PHP 5.3,” he said. It is estimated that PHP 7 doubles the performance of 5.3. Because of this, Datto actively pushed Canonical to include support for it in Ubuntu 16.04. “We’re looking forward to be able to write to PHP 7 and the future of what it will bring,” said Heckel. Neal Gompa, Systems Engineer at Datto, worked directly with Canonical engineers for a number of months to ensure its inclusion, according to Heckel.
For the time being, most Ubuntu Server users will continue to rely on APT for package management However, version 16.04 includes access to a new kind of package called a “snap.” According to Canonical, snaps represent the future of Ubuntu packaging. Heckel said that Datto is not currently making use of snaps, but sees possibilities for future use cases. “Snaps allow you isolate apps, so you can move or remove them easily,” he said. “[By contrast,] Debian packages distribute files all over the place.”