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

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

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    True as far as it goes, but a terribly incomplete answer. I guess if that's all you wanted, it's fine though. – Michael Hampton Oct 17 '12 at 19:54
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    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 '12 at 20:48
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    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 '17 at 20:27
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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.

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    What customization is it that's been done? I have still no idea how they are actually different. – benmccann Oct 15 '12 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 '12 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 '12 at 18:40
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    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 '12 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 '12 at 19:21
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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

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