Canonical, The company behind Ubuntu GNU/Linux, has announced that its popular operating system (OS) Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Long Term Support) also known as Xenial Xerus will reach its end of life on Friday, April 30, 2021. What this means is that the operating system will stop receiving standard updates from the company including security and your operating system may be exposed to security threats.

The company releases two versions of its OS every year, the first in April (.04) and the second in October (.10) the April versions are tagged as LTS which are supported for 5 years and this is the version often used not just because of its long maintenance period, but also its stability.

While end of life may be approaching for your 16.04 Ubuntu distribution, there is a room to buy three (3) more years if you are willing to pay for it. This extended period is called Extended Security Maintenance (ESM). Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr) and Ubuntu 12.04. LTS (Precise Pangolin) are as of this time in the ESM and this may be the best for you if all there is to consider work against you. We have put together a number of considerations.

  1. What type of user are you? Depending on if you are a hard core geek with software development environment or you are a system administrator managing servers with high loads driven by technology stack that have been deprecated in the future release of your distribution. Determine the cost of upgrade before you proceed. You can upgrade from 16.04 to 18.04 (Bionic Beaver) then 20.04 (Focal Fossa) or if you enjoy using Ubuntu on a desktop, you can download Ubuntu 21.04 – a beta version released yesterday. The stable version of Ubuntu 21.04 is schedule for release on 22nd April 2021.
  2. Consider your technology stack. One of the quirks of upgrading your OS is that there is a chance that your software components may get broken and restoring it back is quite expensive. At the wake of 2020, specifically January 1st, 2020 Python2 reached its end of life and has been completely removed in Ubuntu 20.04. This is just one example. Knowing what is supported and what is not across future versions of your OS is hard, evaluate your risks, account for all variables and above all know what you are doing before upgrading.
  3. A lesson to learn if you are a server administrator. Revise your technology stack and remove dependencies on underlying operating system for your applications and you won’t have to go through this, consider exploring docker, kubernetes, openstack etc.
  4. Buy time Canonical offers ESM for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, which guarantees an additional three years of security patches. ESM is included with Ubuntu Pro 16.04 on public clouds.
  5. Never mind: This is the case when you don’t care about the end of life for your distribution and you have no plans to do anything about it. If you are using Desktop, you are much safer than when you are exposed to the public internet. The least you can do is minimize your risks. You can begin to practice the principle of least privilege for your application and configuration setup and keep watching the news.

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