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Shuttleworth: “No Oracle Deal…Today.” (but stay tuned)Nick Selby, October 25, 2006 @ 10:16 am ET
Rumors buzzed, but nothing during today’s keynote at Oracle OpenWorld by Larry Ellison regarding Oracle’s commitment to Linux – possibly in collaboration with a major Linux vendor. Whether Ellison used the word, “Ubuntu” in this speech, we believe that an Oracle-Ubuntu partnership is in the cards, based on an interview this morning with Mark Shuttleworth. Let’s not get all excited – this may not even be that big a deal. Ubuntu may not even be Oracle’s focus but instead one partner among several – we’ll see.
This morning, Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth said he wasn’t announcing an Oracle deal “today,” but he did indicate that an Oracle-Ubuntu partnership was not a matter of if, but rather of when. [By the way, the time of the call - 4am ET/9am BT - didn't sound promising for a dramatic, surprise Shuttleworth cameo on stage in San Francisco similar to that at Sun earlier this year, but who knows - Shuttleworth gets around, and could be burning off the jet lag]
“There has been a tremendous amount of interest in Oracle on Ubuntu” Shuttleworth told us, “and that will be one of the strategic steps we’ll take in due course.”
His comments were in the context of discussing Canonical’s server-oriented ISV approach, and he said that there has been, “a tremendous amount of interest,” in Oracle on Ubuntu. Shuttleworth reiterated that it would be, “Tactically valuable” for Oracle to cut a deal which would give it more influence over a Linux distro. Now he tells us that it would be both strategically and tactically valuable for Canonical and Ubuntu to cut a deal with Oracle.
We’ve noted before that, thanks to Shuttleworth’s endowment (Shuttleworth made his fortune in the sale of his company Thawte to Verisign in 1999 for approximately 1.2 smazillion dollars) Canonical has the wherewithal to build its operating system and surrounding community infrastructure while being relatively insouciant in its approach to the paid engagements which would be so crucial to a purely commercial enterprise.
Since the release of Dapper LTS in June, 2006 (at which time we said that we believed that Canonical had around a dozen commercial support contracts), Shuttleworth says that Canonical has seen significant uptake in commercial discussions, negotiations and the number of contracts signed, and that the discussions have been taking place between Canonical and significantly larger enterprises. Canonical says its commercial pipeline now includes many much larger enterprises, including a Spanish enterprise engaging in a 400,000 desktop deployment (it is currently, Canonical claims, deciding whether to roll out Dapper or Edgy).
Shuttleworth says that these larger enterprises have expressed keen interest in further development of Oracle-on-Ubuntu, and that closer ties are, strategically, steps that Ubuntu will take in due course.
Another area of speculation has been of consumer related OEM deals with HP or Dell. Canonical says that it is not announcing any OEM deals right now with any manufacturer in the West, but that it is just about to announce a ‘quite significant’ OEM deal with an Indian computer manufacturer (he was about to, but a Prague-based Canonical staffer stepped in and said it was premature to make the actual announcement, so we reckon it’s coming along pretty soon now).
Shuttleworth believes that there is not much value or cost benefit to OEM deals for Ubuntu in the US, Europe and other developed markets, but that in specialist markets (workstations for CAD and specialized industries) and in the developing world, such arrangements can be quite valuable for all involved.
One of Canonical’s other initiatives has been in developing its kernel and software to get Edgy to work with the feature sets of all currently shipping Intel kit, designed, Canonical says, to leverage Intel’s penetration in the developing world.
Ubuntu’s determination to consider the wide proliferation of Plug n Play (PnP) devices, especially on notebook and laptop computers, such as PCMCIA cards, removable storage devices, peripherals and, of course, multimedia devices, cameras and such, led to a rethink about how these devices were getting loaded at boot time. Upstart – which replaces init as the first process to run on boot, essentially allows administrators to dynamically reconfigure the operating system to consider the hardware and networking components available at boot time, permitting dependencies (one thing has happened, therefore another thing can happen). Apple has gone a similar route with its Launchd, released in Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger – a single, standardized interface to all programs started automatically by the system.
By moving to Upstart, Ubuntu says that Edgy boot times are significantly faster than before, but there is far more to faster boot time at work here. In addition to highly useful functionality such as permitting the addition of removable media to be loaded at boot time, Edgy promises a game-changing look at the Linux Terminal Server Project. LTSP itself is a modern implementation of the old X-Server, which allows administrators to deploy a server to which thin clients attach via an SSH tunnel and download their linux kernel across the network at boot, then start an X-Windows server which looks to a remote display manager (such as GDM or KDM). Users interact with applications which are run on the server.
The LTSP has adopted Ubuntu as the core for LTSP version 5. Shuttleworth says Canonical believes it can point to compelling evidence indicating significantly lower total cost of ownership for LTSP as a tool for enterprises to migrate from Windows to thin-client-based Linux. Red Hat and Novell have spent a lot of time convincing enterprises to adopt Linux to the current level; the FUD surrounding another switch, to yet a different model of open source, may sound just too groovy or too weird for CIO’s to even contemplate at this point.
If it has truly revamped thin client infrastructure to the extent that there is a measurable TOC advantage to migrating to Linux on thin clients from Windows, Canonical has the chance to make enterprises sit up and pay close attention. But there’s still very little – and we mean very, very little – money being made here. And as we have pointed out, enterprises are aware that there is always the risk that if Shuttleworth tires of this project, it will die.
This is getting really interesting.
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