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Ubuntu targets IT in coming year

It plans to bolster server software, offer regular 'enterprise releases'

By Mark Hall
July 23, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Ubuntu distribution of Linux is widely appreciated by open-source supporters for its emphasis on integrating many elements of free software that appeal to desktop users. However, in the coming months, Canonical Ltd., the London-based commercial backer of Ubuntu, plans to focus on its server software for many of its system improvements.

In a keynote speech yesterday at the Ubuntu Live conference here, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, said that over the next year "there will be increased investment" in the server version of the operating system. He cited numerous initiatives planned by Canonical to improve Ubuntu in the eyes of IT managers.

One Ubuntu program, Landscape, will provide Web-based system management and monitoring software for systems administrators. Although common for Windows or Red Hat Linux, Ubuntu currently lacks rudimentary server management software.

Starting next month, Canonical plans to make Landscape available in beta form. The software will give administrators data about a server's condition, such as memory usage, temperature and configuration conditions, as well as information about which users are currently accessing server programs. The software will also be able to update patches and operating system versions on the hardware.

Shuttleworth said a "key driver" for the company will be to improve Ubuntu's performance while running on VMware. He said Canonical will deliver a server version of Ubuntu that will be lean and fast enough so that administrators will be able to run many instances of Ubuntu in a virtual environment on a single hardware server.

Another area where Ubuntu will attempt to lure IT staffers to its Linux distribution is with regular and predictable "enterprise releases," he said. Shuttleworth also floated the idea that all Linux vendors could band together to coordinate the release of Linux distributions so that IT shops could depend on regular, systematic updates. Doing so, he said, would give Linux vendors a leg up over Microsoft Corp.'s erratic release schedule for Windows.

Canonical is also planning to expand its enterprise service agreements to cover France and Germany.

The reason for Canonical's shift in strategy is not hard to understand. Shuttleworth said that 70% of its services revenue comes from server, not desktop contracts.

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