Inside Goobuntu, Google's Ubuntu Linux Distribution

At LinuxCon, Google engineer details what Google's own flavor of Ubuntu Linux is all about.

SAN DIEGO. Google is built on open source software like Linux. That's something that has been well known for years, but what perhaps isn't as well known is the fact that Google uses its own Ubuntu Linux derivative to power tens of thousands of internal users desktops.

Speaking at the LinuxCon conference this week, Google engineer Thomas Bushnell detailed his company's use of Linux for desktop users. Bushnell's team is responsible for providing a Linux engineering platform for Google's internal employees, including graphics designer, managers as well as software and system engineers.

The system that Bushnell deploys is known to Googlers as 'Goobuntu' and it is essentially a light skinning of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution.

"Just go get Ubuntu and run it and you've got Goobuntu," Bushnell said. "The only thing we're adding are special tools to access Google specific resources that our engineers need."

Some of those specific resources include, Google's own LDAP authentication for user access across the Google infrastructure. Bushnell stressed that Google does not have a fully custom user interface for Goobuntu either.

Aside from the Google specific customizations, there are also some specific security precautions that have been taken. Bushnell said that any apps that phones home or have known security issues have been removed from Goobuntu.

From an updating perspective, Goobuntu also utilizes Google's own internal software repository framework instead of relying on a public Ubuntu resource.

Currently Goobuntu is built on top of the latest Ubuntu set of Long Term Release distributions. Ubuntu updates LTS releases every two years. Bushnell explained that the reason why Google uses Ubuntu LTS as opposed to the leading edge of Ubuntu releases has to do with cost. Ubuntu updates its distribution every six month. Bushnell said that upgrading to each new release is very expensive for Google as it involves hundreds of locally built packages.

Why Ubuntu?

There are a number of different Linux distributions out there that Google could have chosen as its base. In Bushnell's view the Debian packaging system (.deb) is superior to the one used by Red Hat and SUSE (rpm).

"The dependency relationship in .deb packages solve actual problems that come up and we really need that," Bushnell said." And why Ubuntu? Well the cadence is awesome and Canonical is a good partner for support."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Tags: Linux, Google

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