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What Makes Ubuntu Go?

Canonical wants to get its arms wrapped around the features that make people choose a given operating system for mission-critical applications, and nearly 60 per cent said that hardware support - the ability of the software to run on a wide variety or iron and peripherals - was "very important" and another 25 per cent said it was "important." But application package and update management was cited as very important by nearly 70 per cent, with another 25 per cent saying it was important. Simple upgrades and proven security were almost as important to these Ubuntu shops, but business partner and commercial application support were not as important - nor was the size of the company providing the support.

Interestingly, 20 per cent of those polled said they run Linux (not just Ubuntu) on homemade servers, and another 23 per cent said they run Linux on tower or desktop PCs. Hewlett-Packard's x86 and x64 servers were cited as the platform for Linux OS deployment by just over 10 per cent of those polled, and Dell did well with over 15 per cent of companies saying they plop Linux on PowerEdge boxes. IBM's x86/x64 servers were cited by 6 per cent of those polled. Fujitsu-Siemens and NEC had some share, as did Sun Microsystems' x64 and Sparc iron. In some good news for Sun, nearly 5 per cent of large enterprises polled by Sun said they were deploying Linux on Sun's "Galaxy" line of x64 boxes. Generic Intel boxes were cited as the Linux platform by just over 5 per cent of shops polled.

People may make fun of cloud computing, but these Ubuntu shops seem to be taking it pretty seriously. A little more than 60 per cent of those polled said they thought cloud computing infrastructure was mature enough to support mission critical applications. This is a lower rate by far than what respondents said for Linux operating systems themselves, but it is a lot higher than many people might have expected. And happily for Canonical, which wants to get a slice of that cloud pie in the sky, 85 per cent of those polled said that Ubuntu was a viable platform on which to base cloud-style applications. But after all that, only 27 per cent of respondents said they were planning to deploy applications on clouds. So, "This is a great idea - but after you, mate."

In the meantime, Canonical is looking forward to seeing more Ubuntu installations. All but a few per cent of customers said they planned to deploy more Ubuntu Server Edition licenses in the future.

This sure beats the alternative: declining shipments. But strong demand for Ubuntu downloads and installations doesn't mean Ubuntu is a business. As is the case with all freely distributed software, whether it is open or closed source, the big long-term question Canonical faces is this: Can it make enough money from those relative few Ubuntu shops that feel they need enterprise-class support to keep doing what it does?

Paid support contracts give companies like Canonical the dough to pay people to do the hard work of creating a good Linux distribution, and most Ubuntu users don't pay for support. They use community support and they work it out for themselves. Commercial tech support was only cited as important or very important by a little more than 30 per cent of Ubuntu shops in this new survey. One of the reasons why Ubuntu shops don't care about the cost of support seems to be that they don't pay for it. ®

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