Canonical rejigs Ubuntu support services

Tiered support gets tiered pricing

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

Canonical, the commercial presence behind the Ubuntu Linux distribution for servers and desktops, is in business to make money as well as to put out the best free operating system it can.

Some businesses won't pay for support, some want basic support, and others (particularly companies making big investments in Linux for the first time) want all the hand-holding they can get. To better address the needs of different sets of customers, Canonical is packaging up its support services in a new way, which it calls Ubuntu Advantage.

Ubuntu Advantage takes all of the various technical and legal support services for Canonical's Linux, the Landscape system management tool (which was just updated to the 1.5 release two weeks ago following the launch of Ubuntu 10.04 Long Term Support), and online resources and packages them all up as a tiered product offering with different features and scaled prices.

"It has become clear as the use of Ubuntu in the enterprise increases, that businesses are now using Ubuntu in more areas of business than before, including as a cloud platform," said Neil Levine, vice president of corporate services at Canonical, in a statement announcing the new services bundle.

"Ubuntu Advantage provides the set of services that companies need to make Ubuntu a core part of their IT strategy. Flexible pricing and a choice of service levels means any business can realize what our customers already experience - that to optimize your Ubuntu deployment, engaging with the appropriate Canonical service is the easiest and fastest route to success."

Ubuntu Advantage is available for customers deploying either Ubuntu Server or Ubuntu Desktop editions. Within these two options, there are various levels of support, with prices rising as more features are added. Support terms are for either 9x5 business day or 24x7 support, as in the past. Canonical is offering different price bands for Ubuntu Advantage support based on the features covered, not just on the hours and speed of service.

Ubuntu Server Advantage comes in three flavors. The Essential edition includes Landscape Hosted Edition (the one that runs on Canonical's iron and manages your Ubuntu servers remotely) and Landscape Dedicated Server Edition is optional. It also includes Canonical's indemnification from intellectual property rights lawsuits, called the Ubuntu Assurance Program, which was sold separately, and access to the Ubuntu Server knowledge base (part of tech support for Ubuntu Server) and basic installation and application support.

Premium service engineer support, where Canonical gives you a dedicated support person on its staff, is optional. Server Advantage Essential costs $320 per machine per year, and offers 9x5 coverage.

The Standard edition of the Ubuntu Advantage package for servers adds support for virtualization and Windows integration, and customers can add on cloud support or the dedicated Landscape tool; without those two optional elements, the Standard Edition costs $700 per machine per year and only has 9x5 coverage. Adding the Standard Cloud add-on for Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud costs an extra $350 per year.

Ubuntu Advantage Server Advanced Edition adds in support for clustering and high availability and the custom package repository that Canonical has set up for Ubuntu; it costs $1,200 per year and has 24x7 coverage. Adding the Advanced Cloud add-on for Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud costs an extra $600 per year per machine.

The desktop variant of the Ubuntu Advantage bundle comes in Standard and Advanced editions. The Standard variant puts together the hosted version of the Landscape tool with the IP lawsuit protection, knowledge base, and installation, application, and system administration support; it costs $105 per machine per year for 9x5 coverage.

The Advanced edition of Ubuntu Advantage Desktop adds in support for desktop virtualization and the open source development tool stack; it costs $165 per machine per year for 24x7 coverage. Both the Standard and Advanced editions of the Ubuntu Advantage Desktop package can optionally have the local Landscape tool and a premium support engineer dedicated to the account - for an extra fee, of course.

The prices for the services being offered under the new Ubuntu Advantage packaging are lower than the prices customers would have paid for a la carte services from Canonical, according to a company spokesperson.

A support contract for Ubuntu Server with 9x5 business hour support used to cost $750 per server per year, and a contract with 24x7 coverage used to cost $1,200; this included live human and email support coverage. (A few years back, the 24x7 support cost $2,750 a year per server, so this price has come way down.) Canonical's Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud stack layers on the Eucalyptus EC2-alike framework for managing KVM-based cloudy infrastructure.

UEC support spanning five physical machines (and including 24x7 support for the underlying Ubuntu Server) with up to 25 virtual machines costs $4,750 per year for standard 9x5 support and $17,500 for 24x7 support, with a site-wide license with unlimited servers and VMs costing $90,000 for standard and $150,000 for full support.

Last summer, Canonical started tiering its desktop support, offering three different levels of support for three different prices. The Starter Desktop Service cost $55 per year, helping Linux newbies to configure basic applications and the operating system, with the Advanced Desktop Service helping customers put Ubuntu on a partition on a Windows machine and secure it and support it for $115 per year and the Professional Desktop Service giving end users help configuring an Ubuntu desktop to participate in a Windows network managed by Active Directory and setting up virtual machines to support operating systems for $218 per year. These three desktop services are aimed primarily at consumer end users, says Canonical. The new Ubuntu Advantage Desktop service is aimed at corporates.

The Landscape hosted service was always part of the desktop or server support contracts, but could be acquired separately if you wanted to do your own support but use Landscape to manage machines at $150 a pop. Both the hosted and dedicated versions of Landscape cost the same, at $150 per machine per year. The software can be used to manage server instances on Amazon's EC2 cloud as well as on local servers behind the corporate firewall.

The desktop services announced last August are still available on the Canonical store as El Reg goes to press, which means you can do either these or Ubuntu Advantage Desktop. But it looks like Ubuntu Advantage Server is the way you buy support for Ubuntu servers from here on out. ®

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