What's the difference between Ubuntu's cloud images and Ubuntu's server images?


4 Answers 4


One difference between standard images and cloud images is that Ubuntu Cloud Images come with cloud-init

  • 3
    True as far as it goes, but a terribly incomplete answer. I guess if that's all you wanted, it's fine though. Oct 17, 2012 at 19:54
  • 4
    I agree it's a terribly incomplete answer. It's the most I've found, but would love to hear more regarding the specific ways in which the images are different besides merely their intended uses. I would welcome more detail from the community.
    – benmccann
    Oct 17, 2012 at 20:48
  • 7
    according to askubuntu.com/a/307343/457417 by one of the maintainers: '"cloud images" are pretty much vanilla Ubuntu Server installs with the cloud-init package added'
    – Ben Creasy
    Sep 9, 2017 at 20:27
  • 1
    Ubuntu 20.04 Server image includes cloud-init now, so this is not only incomplete, but an outdated answer as well.
    – Nickolay
    Aug 16, 2022 at 22:20

From the first link : "Ubuntu Cloud Images are pre-installed disk images that have been customized by Ubuntu engineering to run on cloud-platforms such as Amazon EC2, Openstack and LXC." So, that's what those are for.

The second link is for their normal distro. If you wanted to install Ubuntu on a physical (or virtual) machine that you are sitting in front of or otherwise have access to and good control of, you would download something from the second link and install it.

  • 3
    What customization is it that's been done? I have still no idea how they are actually different.
    – benmccann
    Oct 15, 2012 at 18:35
  • Just looking at the text files in the release directories from the first link, they're all tagged with what zone and type of instance they're made for. Take a look at this : cloud-images.ubuntu.com/precise/20121015 You'll see that they are literally READY TO GO for Amazon AMI. A raw distro would not be.
    – mfinni
    Oct 15, 2012 at 18:39
  • Another link : help.ubuntu.com/community/EC2StartersGuide It doesn't detail exactly what changes have been made to the images that varies from a plain distro release, but I'm sure you can start to see what's different? Do you have any experience working on cloud infrastructure - if not, I could see why you might not immediately see what the point is.
    – mfinni
    Oct 15, 2012 at 18:40
  • 1
    I'm surprised to hear that a regular image is not ready to go in the cloud. What would you need to change in a regular image? Are these meant only for EC2? If you wanted to run on some other cloud would you use the cloud image instead of the regular server image?
    – benmccann
    Oct 15, 2012 at 18:53
  • I didn't say that the regular images wouldn't be suitable for the cloud, but the ones for Amazon are actually already in the cloud - you click on the link and it will instantiate an AMI for you. What are you having trouble understanding? With just a raw distro, you'd have to download the ISO, start a new blank Amazon image, and then mount or transfer that ISO over the web and start a fresh install. The "cloud images" take a lot of that work away from you.
    – mfinni
    Oct 15, 2012 at 19:21

Ubuntu cloud images dispense installing to a (virtual) disk from the ISO

When you install a desktop ISO, it takes you through an interactive installation setup that sets things like partition sizes, username and language settings. You can see such a setup at: https://askubuntu.com/questions/884534/how-to-run-ubuntu-16-04-desktop-on-qemu/1046792#1046792

This is however too inconvenient for Cloud deployments, which require spinning up a large number of OSes, and things have to be automated. This is why the Cloud images exist.

In particular, as of 18.04 it ships a pre-installed qcow2 image that you can just boot out of the box without the installer. This image format can also be easily resized.

These images are also very useful for emulation if you just want to get Ubuntu up and running quickly, I have shown a QEMU setup at: https://askubuntu.com/questions/281763/is-there-any-prebuilt-qemu-ubuntu-image32bit-online/1081171#1081171

  • 1
    Cloud images also have the cloud-init package installed, which allows run-time configuration by providing, among other options, text files on an ISO filesystem. Nov 15, 2021 at 16:39
  • The cloud images are (now) provided in formats native to popular clouds (e.g. vmdk for VMWare), and may not include packages not necessary in a virtual machine (e.g. one difference I noticed is linux-image-virtual vs linux-image-generic in a regular Server install).
    – Nickolay
    Aug 16, 2022 at 22:10

Not sure that the first answer is correct.

cloud-init is the Ubuntu package that handles early initialization of a cloud instance. It is installed in the official Ubuntu live server images since the release of 18.04, Ubuntu Cloud Images and also in the official Ubuntu images available on EC2.


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