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Netplan 1.0: Canonical Makes Network Management Simpler and Secure for Ubuntu

Netplan utility is the next generation of network management for Ubuntu and Debian.

Canonical has been busy these past few months readying up the upcoming feature-packed Ubuntu 24.04 LTS release, while also focusing on scaling their portfolio of products and services.

One such move that caught my attention was the introduction of Netplan 1.0 that has been the result of more than seven years of work. So, let's dive in and see what's on offer.

Netplan 1.0: What to Expect?

a screenshot showing two terminal windows with netplan and netplan info commands being run

Netplan is a utility that is used to easily configure networking on various kinds of Linux systems. A more technical term, as mentioned by Canonical, is that it is “a network configuration abstraction renderer”.

In simple words, this is a tool that allows administrators to quickly configure Linux systems at scale, with the help of YAML descriptions. Which can then be implemented on servers, desktops, IoT devices, or the Cloud to control backends like NetworkManager or systemd-networkd.

The need for such a tool arose when the developers, back in the days of Ubuntu 16.10 had the opportunity to switch to a network stack that gelled in well with their dependency-based boot model.

For servers, they had systemd-networkd in place for its utility, and had NetworkManager for desktops for integration with the user interface. But, the developers wanted a way to be able to manage and configure both of those network stacks for providing “a streamlined user experience across any flavor of Ubuntu”.

That is why they introduced Netplan as a control layer above those two, to act as a single point of control. You can read up on Netplan's history to learn more about its inner workings.

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Moving on to the highlights of the Netplan 1.0 release:

There is now support for both WPA2 and WPA3 security protocols, a new netplan status -diff subcommand for finding differences between configuration and system state, support for Mellanox VF-LAG for high performance SR-IOV networking, and a stable libnetplan1 API.

Other refinements include improved wireless functionality, support for management of network interface types like veth, dummy, VXLAN, VRF, etc.

The devs also improved the maintenance aspect of Netplan by moving to Meson for its buildsystem, with upstream CI coverage for a wide range of Linux distros. They also implemented checks for ABI compatibility, and an automatic memory leak detection system.

You can learn more about Netplan 1.0 on the official announcement blog or the release notes.

Want to check it out?

Well, you can either wait for it in the upcoming Ubuntu 24.04 LTS or Debian 13 releases, where Netplan has been made the default network management tool.

Or, you can head over to its GitHub repo to check out the source code, and build it manually.

For further reading, you can also refer to the official documentation or the website.

💬 What do you think of Netplan? Will it be of use to you?

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