Canonical Launches Secure, Immutable Ubuntu Core 22 — But the Community Remains Skeptical

With developers and startups facing $20,000 bills to deploy even small numbers of devices, Ubuntu Core is proving unpopular.

Canonical has announced the release of Ubuntu Core 22, its containerized Ubuntu 22.04 LTS variant designed specifically for the Internet of Things (IoT) and embedded devices — but many in the community remain unconvinced by its benefits, particularly in the face of hefty licensing fees.

"Our goal at Canonical is to provide secure, reliable open source everywhere – from the development environment to the cloud, down to the edge and to devices," claims Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical's chief executive. "With this release, and Ubuntu’s real-time kernel, we are ready to expand the benefits of Ubuntu Core across the entire embedded world."

Canonical has launched its latest immutable Ubuntu Core OS, but has yet to convince the community of its benefits. (📹: Canonical)

Ubuntu Core, the release of which typically lags Ubuntu proper, takes the heart of Canonical's Linux distribution and modifies it with a focus on embedded use. Its key difference: The operating system is fully containerized, in such a way that even system applications are installed as snap packages — meaning they can't be modified by other applications and can be rolled back to previous versions quickly and easily. Coupled with full-disk encryption, the result is a secure and technically immutable platform.

Now four versions into the concept, though, Canonical is still struggling to convince community members of the benefits to Ubuntu Core specifically and its snap package model in general. In discussions surrounding the release of Ubuntu Core 22 on Hacker News, the sentiment is overwhelmingly negative.

"I highly discourage anyone to use Ubuntu Core as part of their solution," pseudonymous critic yourstruly-br writes in the top comment. "It is a secure environment, yes, but it is a nightmare to configure (snaps) and for everything, [except] for the most basic stuff, you will need what is called a 'brand store,' which costs about $20k/year, regardless if you have 1 or 100 devices. (We could not even make one snap talk to another snap, checking another snap status etc). We had commercial discussions w/ Canonical and we basically moved away."

"We had the [same] problem evaluating it for our startup," agrees fellow commenter mr337. "We were planning on using it to deploy ROS [Robot Operating System] in the field and leverage the benefits. I was quoted $20k/year to get started and I think that also included 10 or 20 devices in the field. Then additional costs [after] that. There was so many hacks to get it working with ROS since we rely on hardware for robotics to communicate with sensors, actuators, and network. Basically broke the security model to get our application working. We didn't go with it and went Debian as well."

Those who are not put off by community sentiment can find out more at Canonical's Introduction to Ubuntu Core 22 webinar on June 28; alternatively, the latest Ubuntu Core images for Raspberry Pi single-board computers and x86 AMD64 devices are now available on the Ubuntu CD Images server.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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