Ubuntu creator Mark Shuttleworth said version 8.04 features a sexier GUI for consumers but it’s the Long Term Support, Wubi Windows installer, server assets and expanding ecosystem that will make it a rising star in the corporate world.
Ubuntu 8.04 Long Term Support (LTS) Desktop Edition and Server Edition, developed under the code name of “Hardy Heron,” was released as expected today, on April 24. The third leading Linux distributor made a name for itself on the desktop. But now, with its fourth server release, and second LTS offering for desktop and server, Shuttleworth expects Ubuntu will get more respect from corporate customers.
“Red Hat and Novell both articulated a very specific economic niche and Red Hat in part defined that niche and I expect Red Hat will [continue to] dominate. I don’t expect Ubuntu to unseat Red Hat as the primary provider of shrink wrapped commercial Linux on the server, but I would expect seeing Ubuntu on servers in the market for people who would have bought Unix," Shuttleworth said in a phone interview on April 1, in preparation for the global launch this week.
Canonical has a viable corporate strategy with this version and is differentiated from Red Hat and Novell in several ways, Shuttleworth said.
First, Ubuntu’s Long Term Support, deemed necessary for corporate adoption, gives customers five years worth of maintenance and security releases for the server and three years support on the desktop. Customers can upgrade to the next upgrade in october of 2008 or stick with 8.04 for the lengthy support contract.
Aside from this, the software is free and open. There's no unique "enterprise" version for paying customers and lower-end version for users that don’t pay for support contracts. This is a big distinction from Red Hat and Novell, he and other Canonical executives say.
Another big draw for the corporate crowd is the Wubi Windows installer, new to this release of Ubuntu, which allows users to download and test the Ubuntu desktop on their Windows PCs without repartitioning the hard drive. Shuttleworth said getting corporate end users comfortable with a new desktop is critical for its evolution.
“The biggest issue for us [in getting corporate support] is in the evaluation process and this installer for Windows is very attractive,” Shuttleworth said. “It’s a way of reducing the friction of people to try Linux but don’t have the confidence to repartition the drive."
On the features side, the 8.04 server features enhanced security via SELinux, integration with Microsoft Active Directory via integration of LikeWise Open and support for KVM for hosting virtualization for applications and operating systems out of the box. This is another differentiation from Red hat and Novell, which back Xen in their Linux distributions for open source virtualization.
Ubuntu’s ecosystem of partners is also growing, Shuttleworth pointed out.
Canonical announced, for example, that Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server Edition is certified on several Sun x64 server platforms, including the Sun Fire X2100 M2, X2200 M2 and Sun Fire X4150 servers. Additionally, HP has agreed to ensure Ubuntu runs well on its Proliant servers, Canonical said this week.
“Sun said we’ll certify Ubuntu on their x64 servers and in addition we’re working with all major server vendors to validate and test the platform on their hardware, “ Shuttleworth said. More than 500 maintained and supported server packages are available for version 8.04 including Alfresco, Bacula, IBM, VMWare, Parallels, Qumranet, Tresys, Zarafa, Zend and Zimbra. On the desktop side, support from Adobe, IBM, Skype, Zimbra, IBM/Lotus and others is there.
“The most significant feature is the greatly increased ecosystem of hardware and software third party certifying on the platform,” Shuttleworth said. “We’ve seen an order of magnitude jump in third party applications certified on Ubuntu and an order of magnitude increase in companies that provide services, support and consulting. The ecosystem is growing substantially.”