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Long Term Cloud release

As El Reg reported last week, Ubuntu 10.04 is ready for downloads this Thursday, and this is the Long Term Support release - offering five years of support instead of the normal 18 months of an Ubuntu release - that Canonical, its ISVs, and its growing base of cloud customers have been waiting for.

If Canonical can get 12,000 customers in nine months and this is the flat part of the hockey stick for home-grown clouds, then Canonical may just find itself as the credible alternative to the RHEL-RHEV stack of Linux and KVM virtualization from Linux market leader Red Hat. That is arguably a better position than Novell is in with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, its Xen virtualization, and its desire to be a "perfect guest" on other people's hypervisors rather than being the most efficient and flexible platform on which to run other guests, as Red Hat and Canonical are trying to do.

It doesn't hurt to have the companies that are building the clouds on your side. In early March, Canonical and Intel whipped up a best practices white paper as part of Intel's Cloud Builder program to show people how to build clouds using UEC. (Intel, of course, has been known to help companies build their own clouds, notably Google). And a few weeks later, as Dell was announcing that it was mainstreaming some of its custom cloud kit as the PowerEdge-C line of servers, the server maker also said that it was certifying UEC on its cloud machinery alongside VMware's ESX Server and Microsoft's Hyper-V. In fact, UEC was the first complete infrastructure as a service (IaaS) stack certified on the Dell cloud servers, and remains the only one out now.

Don't get the wrong idea. UEC is not the only thing that is driving Ubuntu Server. Oddly enough, Linux desktop users - and typically programmers, system administrators, and other techies - are doing their part too.

Asay admits that he has been a Mac fanboi since 2002 and was among the many pundits that has been criticizing Linux vendors for years about their focus on the desktop. But Canonical, it seems, was right about what it needed to do - and in what order.

"The crowd of people that use Ubuntu on the desktop are the ones that deploy Ubuntu as a server OS and now as a cloud OS," says Asay. "People get comfortable with Ubuntu on the desktop, and then they deploy on the server."

This is, of course, exactly how Unix made it from academia to workstations and then to the data center, and it is also the same track that Windows took from the desktop to the server. So this should be no surprise. At least not to anyone who remembers history. Before there were desktop computers, minis were how new platforms got established. It is always the smaller machine that gets a market going.

What you won't see Canonical doing with Ubuntu Server Edition is get distracted. While Ubuntu will scale on large x64 boxes, the company is not looking to port to other platforms or demonstrating prowess on scale-up SMP and NUMA machines. Canonical is focused on the sweet spot of two-socket and four-socket boxes and scale out infrastructure with Ubuntu Server, says Asay. And it is not going to chase after the high-performance computing space either, which Red Hat hasn't done much with and which Novell has some sway. Canonical doesn't need these distractions to grow; it needs to have discipline and hit the targets it picks.

Depending on the metrics you look at, the momentum for Ubuntu is increasing, with Ubuntu getting around 5 to 10 per cent of current deployment market share compared to close to zero two years ago on servers, according to Asay.

"Up until now, it has been Ubuntu proving itself as the new kid on the block. I feel like we are at the inflection point on the hockey stick, which is why I joined the company." ®

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