Ubuntu 24.04 Now Offers a Real-Time Kernel, But There’s a Catch

Canonical launched a real-time kernel for Ubuntu 24.04 LTS optimized for mission-critical apps but available only to users with a PRO subscription.

I really want to appreciate Ubuntu for its significant contributions to the Linux ecosystem, yet I find it difficult to accept Canonical’s approach, which can be quite disheartening for the average open-source enthusiast. Let’s take it step by step, though.

Today, Canonical announced great news about the real-time Ubuntu 24.04 LTS release. I’m not sure why they chose that name, as it sounds misleading, almost like a new distribution, though it’s just a patched version of the Linux kernel. But anyway.

Without wanting to sound like a tutor, let me explain what a real-time OS is for those who might not be familiar. In short, it’s a system engineered to process data and provide responses within a guaranteed time frame, critical for applications where delays could result in serious consequences.

Unlike standard operating systems, which manage tasks on a best-effort basis, real-time OS systems prioritize high-urgency tasks and ensure they are executed within strict time constraints. Now, back to the topic.

The heart of the new Real-time Ubuntu 24.04 is integrating the PREEMPT_RT patch on top of the Linux kernel 6.8 for both AMD64 and ARM64 architectures. It transforms the Linux kernel to handle operations with predictable timing, turning the open-source OS into a robust platform for real-time performance.

As you can guess, this kernel modification is crucial for applications that require deterministic responses as it minimizes latency and enhances the predictability of process execution.

Furthermore, Real-time Ubuntu 24.04 also brings optimized support for Raspberry Pi hardware, specifically models 4 and 5. An enhancement that broadens the hardware compatibility spectrum and boosts performance, making it suitable for innovative real-time applications in embedded systems.

Just when I was thrilled about the wonderful contribution Canonical was making to the Linux community, I encountered a statement that completely changed my perspective:

“Real-time Ubuntu 24.04 LTS is available via Ubuntu Pro, Canonical’s enterprise security and compliance subscription, free for personal and small-scale commercial use in up to 5 machines.”

Let me clarify the issue here. I find it hard to reconcile the terms “Open Source” and “Subscription” in the same sentence, but that’s just my opinion, and I don’t expect everyone to agree. However, this approach is а primary strategy for companies like Canonical with Ubuntu and similar to Red Hat with RHEL.

The issue with Ubuntu’s real-time kernel is that Canonical is firmly heading down the path of limiting its innovations only to the PRO subscribers. While these features are primarily aimed at businesses, and no one is forced to use them (even though a subscription allows free usage of up to 5 machines), the core of the matter lies elsewhere.

We’re talking about how placing options behind a subscription paywall fundamentally conflicts with the Open Source philosophy. When companies do this, it’s hard to take their later use of terms like “community” and “open source” seriously. So, once celebrated as one of the best things ever happened to Linux, Ubuntu has become a contentious topic that stirs mixed emotions.

Yes, Real-time Ubuntu 24.04 LTS is a great development. However, Canonical has designed it primarily for profit, as it’s available only through a paid subscription targeted at businesses. At the same time, the gap between the company and the ordinary Linux user has long been so wide, making it seemingly impossible to bridge.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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