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Ubuntu quietly breaks off Sparc affair

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Maverick Meerkat is set to become the last version of Ubuntu that'll run on Oracle's Sparc, ending a four-year relationship.

Also getting canned is Ubuntu running on Hewlett-Packard's Itanic 64-bit challenger.

Meerkat is currently in feature-freeze ahead of October's official launch, and apparently nobody's stepped up to maintain the Linux ports to either Sparc or Itanium.

The Ubuntu Sparc port has fallen out of use and updates have slipped, meaning it's fallen below the level of quality needed for an Ubuntu port.

Ubuntu on HP's IA64 is in slightly better shape, but — still — nobody's actively maintaining it.

Canonical employee and Ubuntu developer Scott James Remnant has proposed removing both ports from Meerkat's code before it's released. The only question is whether the Meerket team should act now or after the next Ubuntu board meeting.

On the upside, The H reports that Sparc and IA64 on Ubuntu 10.04 desktop will be maintained for another three years while server gets another five years.

Ubuntu on Sparc was introduced with a flourish in 2006 with Dapper Drake, as Sun Microsystems was busy reinventing itself as a systems company whose servers didn't just run Sun operating systems. In hugging the Drake, Sun desperately tried to align itself with the cool kids, to get them running Linux apps on Sparc boxes instead of the rival Intel kit.

Announcing the Ubuntu port, Sun's then–chief executive Jonathan Schwartz threw free Sparc Niagara servers at developers. According to Schwartz: "Expanding Sparc beyond Solaris to Linux opens new markets for everyone."

The rest is history. ®

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