Amazon lets you rent Ubuntu Pro. Yes, it's Linux on the virtual desktop
Insert your Year of Linux joke here, we dare you
Amazon WorkSpaces, the company's persistent desktop virtualization product, now offers Ubuntu as an option.
It's another piece of validation for penguinistas, although it will doubtless fail to convince those industry commentators who still think it's funny to joke about the "year of Linux on the desktop."
Strictly speaking, this isn't a new thing. Other AWS-based vendors have offered Ubuntu virtual desktops for a while, for example with 18.04 (using Xfce) and 20.04 with GNOME, and Canonical itself endorses Ubuntu on AWS.
Amazon's own-brand version is using the latest Ubuntu 22.04, complete with Ubuntu Pro coverage, meaning 10 years of updates, kernel live-patching, security certification, and more – most of which are more relevant to server workloads, but all the same are not bad things to have. The new offering joins the existing Ubuntu Pro on Google Cloud Engine.
The host machines are Cascade Lake generation Intel Xeon boxes, and the company says soon it will also offer Nvidia GPU support. In terms of pricing, the branded Ubuntu WorkSpaces are slightly cheaper than Windows ones, but more expensive than unbranded Linux or bring-your-own-licence instances, so you still have to pay for that Ubuntu Pro subscription.
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AWS's announcement cites a HackerEarth survey [PDF] from 2020 showing that Ubuntu is the second most popular OS among both experienced and student developers, with two-thirds of respondents favoring it, far ahead of the next most popular Linux, CentOS, with only 11 per cent.
Given that Red Hat's CentOS Linux cancellation was announced in December that year, the undated survey almost certainly pre-dated the move. In The Reg FOSS desk's view, ending the free CentOS Linux was the right thing for Red Hat to do, but it certainly didn't win them any friends.
Linux app developers are the primary target market for the Red Hat-backed Fedora distro rather than CentOS, but Fedora ranked even lower in the survey, with just 9 percent, behind Arch and level with Debian.
It is worth pointing out that while the GNOME desktop remains controversial, it's the only official, supported Ubuntu offering, just as it is the only desktop included with RHEL and its various rebuilds, and with SUSE's enterprise offerings. While many Linux users – including your correspondent – favor other environments, for now, in the western world, GNOME dominates.
Saying that, though, these numbers might be deceptive. Google's ChromeOS did very well indeed out of the pandemic, and while it's not much use to developers, in sheer numbers, we suspect that ChromeOS's Aura desktop has many more users than GNOME. Linux usage outside of the Western world is also rising sharply, including the Chinese Ubuntu variants and UnionTech's Deepin family. It could be that Deepin and UKUI have user numbers to dwarf ChromeOS – we just don't hear about it. ®