May 28th, 2008

So long Debian servers, welcome Ubuntu

I’ve been assessing the possibility of switching GNU/Linux Matters‘ servers (which are all powered by Debian) to Ubuntu, and I have finally decided to go for it.

They were running Debian for three reasons:

  1. Stability, something Debian is well-known for.
  2. A large user base, which brings two big advantages: A huge amount of packaged applications and a good community support.
  3. I’m only familiar with Debian-based distros :)

And they weren’t running Ubuntu because, to be honest, I didn’t find Ubuntu reliable enough to power a server, mainly because of the cutting-edge applications it includes by default; it was just great for my personal computer. I guess this is mostly due to I’ve been using Kubuntu since Breeze, and it was a highly unreliable system in the early versions – IMHO things begun to take shape in Feisty and now Hardy just rocks.

I’ve started to switch our servers to Ubuntu because I think it’s the best choice, at least for us, because we still have the three advantages of using Debian (it’s based on it after all), plus:

  1. Packaged applications are up-to-date, so I don’t have to compile and maintain software which have a old version in Debian repositories (we often need the latest stable version). Yes, I can use Debian Testing, but this is not the only drawback.
  2. Uncomplicated Firewall. An extremely easy-to-setup, basic firewall. It’s just a front-end to iptables-restore, so you can still add/adjust any rule according to your needs.
  3. Many other tiny (and not so tiny) benefits that together make a big difference.

The migration should take some months because it’s not a top-priority at present. There are many more things that should be done first.

Put simply, it’s not that Ubuntu is much better than Debian on the server, it just happens to make your job easier if you’re the administrator.


  1. Debianist on 30 May 2008 at 5:50 pm #

    Think about it again because change Debian servers to Ubuntu servers is a bad move, really. I know it by experience.

  2. ksek on 31 May 2008 at 8:22 pm #

    I don’t think that ubuntu server is better than debian, if you use etch, packages are very old but if you use testing packages are new and even some of them are newer than ubuntu, what ubuntu basicly does is to take debian packages and repackage it for ubuntu. so when you use ubuntu server, indeed you use debian testing. though I like ubuntu, I never think to use it on servers.

  3. Jack on 02 Jun 2008 at 1:55 pm #

    I agree with Debianist: Ubuntu on servers is hell. They have tried to pack too many “nice” features that end up getting in the way.

  4. its me on 03 Jun 2008 at 11:50 pm #

    Plus not all packages you want to install on Ubuntu have security support (think universe and multiverse)!

  5. Olaf van der Spek on 05 Jun 2008 at 1:56 pm #

    > we often need the latest stable version

    Why? What packages do you need to be of the latest stable version?
    Note that there’s also backports.

    > # Uncomplicated Firewall. An extremely easy-to-setup, basic firewall. It’s just a front-end to iptables-restore, so you can still add/adjust any rule according to your needs.

    Do you need one on a server? I’m not running one.

  6. Gustavo on 05 Jun 2008 at 3:14 pm #


    1.- Pootle and Trac, to name a few.
    2.- Are you serious?


  7. Gustavo on Information Technology on 10 Oct 2008 at 6:44 pm #

    So it was not a bad idea to switch to Ubuntu…

    I remember that when I announced that GLM’s servers were being switched to Ubuntu, I got comments on that post and some emails asking me to reconsider this for reasons I didn’t agree with.
    Some months later, I read that Wikimedia is switchi…

« | »

  • About the author

    You're visiting the technical blog of Gustavo Narea, a Software Developer based in Oxford.