Ubuntu LTS Releases: Everything you need to know

Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distributions used today. It is available in two ways – the Ubuntu Desktop version, that regular users can install on their PCs to perform their daily tasks, and the Ubuntu Server version, which allows you to set up a server.

Whenever a new Ubuntu release occurs, you will hear terms like “regular/ interim release” and “LTS release.” But what do these terms mean? If you are now well-versed with the Ubuntu releases, continue reading this post. It will give a comprehensive guide on Ubuntu releases and the differences between interim and LTS releases.

Ubuntu Lifecycle and Release

To enable the community, businesses, and regular users to plan on their technology solutions, Canonical publishes new Ubuntu releases at specific intervals. Therefore, users know when to expect a new release and what new features and upgrades it will bring.

Long-term support and Interim Releases

This section answers most of your questions – What is an LTS release, and What is an Interim release?

What is an LTS Release?

The “LTS” abbreviation stands for “Long Term Release.” Therefore, any Ubuntu release that ships with the “LTS” abbreviation mean that Canonical will maintain it for a more extended period compared to the Interim release.

When Canonical was founded in 2004 by Mark Shuttleworth, it was the first Software company to promise predictable and scheduled releases. In 2006, they released the first Ubuntu LTS release – Ubuntu 6.04 LTS (Dapper Drake). It was the fourth release by Canonical, released on 1st June 2006.

By then, Canonical only provided three (3) years of support for the LTS Ubuntu Desktop version and five (5) years for the LTS Ubuntu Server version.

However, all that changed on 26th April 2012 when Canonical released Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin). Since then, all Ubuntu LTS releases have been supported freely for five (5) years, with an additional five (5) years for those who subscribe to the Extended Security Maintenance (ESM). That applies to both the Desktop and Server versions. As a result, LTS releases are considered “enterprise grades” and highly recommended for business as they are secure and reliable.

An LTS release is published after every two years in April. The exciting bit is that this release schedule determines the release version number. For example, Ubuntu 22.04 LTS means it was released in the year 2022 on April (04). Before that, there was Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, which was released in the year 2020 in April.

Tip: To easily understand Ubuntu version numbers, canonical uses the formula YY: MM. YY stands for the year of release, and MM stands for the month of release. 

Below is a list of the last 5 Ubuntu LTS releases.

  • 22.04 LTS (Jammy Jellyfish)
  • 20.04 LTS (Focal Fossa)
  • 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver)
  • 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus)
  • 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr)

What is an Interim Release?

To keep users up-to-date with the latest software and updates, Canonical publishes interim releases every six months between LTS releases. Unfortunately, these production-quality releases are only meant to give users a sneak pick at new features they might expecting the LTS release and are only supported for nine months. The latest interim release as of writing this post is Ubuntu 21.10.

The list below shows you all the interim releases between Ubuntu 22.04 LTS (Jammy Jellyfish) and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (Focal Fossa).

  • 22.04 LTS (Jammy Jellyfish)
  • 21.10 (Impish Indri)
  • 21.04 (Hirsute Hippo)
  • 20.10 (Groovy Gorilla)
  • 20.04 LTS (Focal Fossa)

Ubuntu Code Names

Up to this point, you clearly understand Ubuntu releases version numbers. However, you will also notice a unique codename next to each release. For example, Ubuntu 20.04 LTS uses the codename “Focal Fossa,” while Ubuntu 22.04 LTS uses the codename “Jammy Jellyfish.” What is the theory or logic behind these names because the developers put in work here too?

These codenames are made up of two numbers, with the first being an adjective and the second an endangered species or a mythical creature. For example, Ubuntu 20.04 LTS uses the codename “Focal Fossa.” Focal stands for “focus,” while Fossa refers to the cat-like mammal in Madagascar. As of writing this post, only around 2500 Fossa remain on the planet.

Another exciting feature is that these codenames increment alphabetically with each new Ubuntu release. Take a look at the list below.

  • 22.04 LTS (Jammy Jellyfish)
  • 21.10 (Impish Indri)
  • 21.04 (Hirsute Hippo)
  • 20.10 (Groovy Gorilla)
  • 20.04 LTS (Focal Fossa)
  • 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver)
  • 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus)
  • 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr)

Should You Always be on the Latest LTS Release?

From this post, you have probably concluded being on the LTS release is much better than using the interim release, which only has 9-month support. However, the main question is – should you always install the latest LTS release? For example, now that the latest is Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, should Ubuntu 20.04 LTS users install Ubuntu 22.04 LTS?

As discussed above, every LTS release is supported freely for Five years, ensuring security and reliability. If there are any bug fixes or security fixes, these updates will be made to all currently supported LTS releases. Therefore, there is no need to install every latest LTS release that is published. However, after the five years window, we recommend upgrading to the latest LTS release if you have not subscribed to the 5-year extended support.

Conclusion

That’s it! You now have a deeper understanding of Ubuntu’s lifecycle and release cadence. Is there any piece o information that you found inaccurate or left out? Please don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below.

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