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Canonical removes middleman from Ubuntu management

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Canonical is offering a dedicated, local version of its Landscape systems management and monitoring server for Ubuntu, rather than insist you access the service through the company's own systems.

Canonical will next month launch the Landscape Dedicated Server, which is a local copy of the current Landscape service. It will run inside the data center, giving IT managers some piece of mind about security.

Launched in March 2008 to help deploy monitor, manage and patch large numbers of Ubuntu servers or PCs, Landscape wasn't a service you bought from Canonical. Instead you accessed it through a web interface and portal.

The product is akin to the Red Hat Network, which was originally available as a monitoring and patching service for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This was eventually offered through a satellite service that allowed customers to put their own RHN servers inside the corporate firewalls for a fee.

Landscape does more than just monitor physical machines individually or in groups. It can also control the deployment of applications from the Ubuntu repository to machines individually or in groups. And if Ubuntu shops want to create their own Ubuntu spin with its own repositories and deploy them on boxes, Landscape can do this as well.

With Landscape 1.3, announced in May, the management service was extended so to control and patch Ubuntu server images running on Amazon's EC2 compute cloud.

The Landscape service is priced $150 per machine per year if you want to just purchase it by itself, but if you buy a normal support contract for Ubuntu Linux for a PC or server, Landscape access comes with the price of that support contract. The Landscape service had a 60-day free trial since it was launched, and it is still running.

And the price will be the same as the hosted version of the Landscape tool - or almost. Canonical will charge $150 per machine per year for the service plus the cost of a server, installation, and support for the whole shebang. No word yet on what those additional fees may be, and of course, IT shops will have to have a local expert in Landscape manage the local repositories.

Canonical has not said if the code behind the Landscape server will be made open source but, thus far, it has resisted doing so and it seems likely this will continue. The Landscape client code is open source, but the value of this is debatable unless you want to provide an exact clone of Ubuntu and charge less than Canonical for support contracts.

Separately, Canonical has launched a set of desktop support services to help customers who want to make the transition from Windows and Mac OS to Ubuntu. The new support is more akin to training than your normal installation and technical support.

The Starter Desktop Service is aimed at Linux newbies and shows them how to configure their Web browser and add common plug-ins, set up media players and email clients, use the OpenOffice suite, and so on. It's priced $55 for a one-year subscription and covers nine-to-five business hours.

The Advanced Desktop Service helps you install Ubuntu on a partition on an existing Windows box and then install Ubuntu with the proper security settings. It's priced $115 per machine per year.

The Professional Desktop Service from Canonical helps you set up and Ubuntu instance so it can log into Microsoft Active Directory on a Windows network and talk to shared printers and file servers and set up remote desktop features inside of Ubuntu as well as virtualization hypervisors on Ubuntu Desktop Edition. This support costs $218 per machine per year.

It is not clear where Mac OS migration plays into any of these services. ®

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