When you think Ubuntu, you probably think of an outstanding, easy-to-use desktop Linux. You probably don't think of Ubuntu as a server operating system. Maybe you should.
In a recent survey, conducted by Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, and the research company, RedMonk, they found that Ubuntu Server Edition is being used for all the usual infrastructure and edge services you expect from a first class server operating system: Web, database, file, print, back-up and mail serving.
That, I expected. Linux has owned edge server jobs for years now, and Linux is also usually strong as an infrastructure player. What did surprise me though was that larger companies, those with more than a 1,000 employees, are also using Ubuntu in clustering, batch processing, and data mining. That's the kind of work I usually see Red Hat and Novell SUSE doing, not Ubuntu.
As Stephen O'Grady, a RedMonk analyst said in a statement, "The popularity of Ubuntu evidenced by the survey is not surprising to those who cover the Linux market. What was surprising was the breadth of workloads that Ubuntu is servicing. Far from being relegated to a niche role, the distribution is being leveraged for a variety of enterprise tasks, from the mundane to the mission critical."
The almost 7,000 users who took the survey were also sure that Ubuntu wasn't just capable of doing these jobs; Ubuntu was already great at doing them. 90%+ of them are already using Ubuntu for their mission-critical jobs.
You might think that these results aren't surprising at all since Ubuntu users, who are known for loving their operating system, were the ones filling out the survey. While that is reason to take the survey's results with a grain of salt, it's also true that Ubuntu has been winning some extremely high-end server jobs.
Canonical has been working towards making Ubuntu a top server for some time. While it doesn't get the headlines that its desktop improvements make, Canonical is quite serious about getting its share of the server market.
In 2007, I talked with Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical's CEO, and he told me "There is already a lot of work being done with hardware vendors. We're confident we can do all the engineering required to just make Ubuntu work on servers." It turns out he was being straight with me. In 2008, Ubuntu started shipping on Dell servers.
Now as Steve George, director of Corporate Services at Canonical, said in a press statement, "We pull together the best components available and make them easy to install, update and secure. We want businesses to embrace the best of open source at the core of their businesses while enabling the choice of proprietary applications to run on top of it. The survey was a useful straw poll to see if we are making good choices that businesses want to use. It is a positive reinforcement."
This survey should also serve notice to the big-time server players, Red Hat and Novell in Linux, and Microsoft and Sun with Windows and Solaris respectively, that the Ubuntu Server is here and it's ready to compete.