Ubuntu – What’s the difference between a Long Term Support Release and a Normal Release


What are the differences between an Ubuntu Long Term Support release (LTS) and a normal release?

Best Answer

There is a new release every 6 months (in April and October), with the version number being year.month (e.g.: 16.04 was released in April 2016). Every two years, the April release is a Long Term Support version.

  • All normal releases (13.04 and later) are only supported for 9 months.

  • All LTS releases (12.04 and later) are supported for five years on both the desktop and the server.
    Older versions had slightly different support cycles, but they haven't been included as they're all unsupported now. See the Ubuntu Wiki for historical information.

Now, support means:

  • Updates for potential security problems and bugs (not new versions of software)

  • Availability of Commercial support contracts from Canonical

  • Support by Landscape, Canonical's enterprise oriented server management tool set

The Desktop refers to the packages that are in the main and restricted repositories, these are the ones that have the little Ubuntu icon next to them in Synaptic or are marked as Supported in the Software-Centre respectively.

The Server packages are the ones in the "server-ship" and "supported-common" seeds (there's a directory of all of the different seeds available).

This is what this looks like:

Image depicting

Image from Ubuntu.com

The primary reason for using an LTS release is that you can depend on it being updated regularly and therefore secure and stable.

As if this wasn't enough, Ubuntu releases additional versions of the last LTS between releases—such as 14.04.1, that incorporate all of the updates up to this point. This is called a Point-Release (or sometimes snapshot). Those are released every quarter to half year, as needed.

In addition to support, there are Development strategies that differentiate an LTS release:

  • The base of the operating system, Debian, comes in three versions: Stable, Testing and Unstable. Normally, Ubuntu is based on Unstable; the LTS releases are based on Testing. Starting with 14.04 LTS, all new releases will be based on Debian Unstable.

  • The Development effort for an LTS release in focused on providing a rock solid base, not only for customers who want the LTS release, but also for the next three Ubuntu versions to come.

Thanks to Oli for demystifying that last part, I wasn't quite sure about it.