Enterprise Linux Log

Oct 11 2007   2:06PM GMT

Gutsy Gibbon does not mean pre-installed Ubuntu on the server


As is becoming a regular occurrence these days, it seems, a few news outlets out there this week are starting to beat the “Ubuntu pre-installed on the server” drum again as the 7.10 release of that operating system draws near (it’s Oct. 18, fyi).

If I sound unimpressed, it’s not because I don’t think it will happen. On the contrary. I think given the rise of Linux over the past few years and the specific rise of Ubuntu usage among end users and the enterprise (on the network edge, anyway), pre-installed Ubuntu on commodity x86 hardware is pretty much a sure thing. But not yet. Wait for Hardy Heron; that’ll be roughly a year from when Dell made the decision to put pre-installed Ubuntu on a few of its laptops and desktops. In tech, a year is a long time.

The reason for my blasé attitude is that the Ubuntu Server drumbeat has started to resemble the “Year of the Linux desktop” one that’s been played ever since I started covering this wonderful OS in 2003. Just as every December brings a slew of messianic Linux desktop year in review articles, so too has every six-month Ubuntu update brought its share of Ubuntu Server world domination features and commentary. I know because I’ve been guilty of writing both types of articles.

Some of my Ubuntu Server handiwork from 2005-2007:

Ubuntu Feisty Fawn launches with server focus
Ubuntu expert sees expanded role for OS on the server
Could Dapper Drake give Ubuntu the last laugh in the server space
Ubuntu: To the server side and beyond?

Now, they say that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, so I guess I’m guilty of being a crazy nut for Ubuntu. I’d like to think I’m a well-informed nut, though.

The OS is going to attack the pre-installed server space soon enough, don’t worry, but by Canonical’s own admonition, the process in place to get there is purposefully a slow, steady one. I know this because even as the Internet goes into a tizzy of speculation this month for the launch of Gutsy, back in August the folks at Canonical told me this directly. They also told me about their server plans with Dell; about the ongoing negotiations; and how talks were taking place with hardware vendors other than Dell–who, if you recall from earlier in the post, made a splash by announcing pre-installed Ubuntu on a range of its desktops and laptops earlier this year.

Gerry Carr, Canonical:

“[Pre-installed Ubuntu on the server] is something we would like to do, and we’ve made no secret about it,” Carr said. “Customers have asked for this, and if people want to see Ubuntu pre-installed on Dell servers, then they should go to [Dell] IdeaStorm and continue to ask for it.”

Carr said that while the deal will “hopefully be with Dell,” Canonical is also considering server vendors other than Dell, and at a later date the company will reveal the results of those talks. “This doesn’t mean a deal is imminent, but those who want and require Ubuntu on the server will have something available reasonably soon,” he said.

The VAR guy over at TechIQ says Red Hat and Novell could be rubbing elbows with Ubuntu soon if Gutsy’s new server features are any indication. He also cites IDC, via a Computerworld article that says no deals are in place, but a deal could be imminent (really? I asked the same question in August).

Canonical is set to release Ubuntu 7.10 — code-named Gutsy Gibbon — on Oct. 18. Although Ubuntu’s momentum is strongest on PC desktops and notebooks, Canonical has publicly stated that Ubuntu 7.10 will include several server-focused enhancements. The company has also hinted that it was preparing a small business server suite. Also, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has called for Canonical, Red Hat and Novell to synchronize the timing of their major Linux releases by 2010– a proposal that would allow software developers to more easily support all three platforms.

But that’s not all. Canonical is now negotiating for Ubuntu pre-installed on servers, according to IDC — though no major deals are in place yet.

The thing is, as you can see from SearchEnterpriseLinux.com’s reporting over the past two years, the message hasn’t changed all that much. Every update has included “server enhancements” with little short -term traction. Regardless, with every release in Canonical’s six-month development cycle, we press types can be counted on to drag out the server argument for a couple of weeks, and then it starts to fade. One day this won’t happen, sure, but I don’t think it’s going to be this Thursday.
With each new Ubuntu release the server chops of Ubuntu get a little more robust and ready for the enterprise environments the OS so richly deserves to inhabit. I just don’t think 7.10 is going to be the watershed moment everyone says it will be (again). Again, that’s just an opinion.

Pre-installed Ubuntu on the server (Dell, HP or otherwise) will arrive en masse eventually, but it’s all been a slow, purposeful process. Just as Canonical’s leader Mark Shuttleworth planned it all along.

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