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Red Hat-Ubuntu pairing would have potentialJay Lyman, April 24, 2008 @ 12:58 pm ET
I’m starting to see some big potential for symbiosis between two Linux and open source leaders: Red Hat and Ubuntu. Red Hat’s departure from the consumer desktop Linux market comes at the same time Ubuntu continues rolling in the same market with the release of Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron this week. The latest Ubuntu also comes in a server version that continues distributor Canonical’s aspirations for enterprise servers. While it has been a struggle to sign OEMs for pre-installation, Canonical appears to be on the right track with regard to certification from the biggies. Still, Ubuntu’s server challenge is a big one, and it comes in a Linux market where Red Hat rules the roost.
All of this is happening at a time when the use and management of server and desktop computers is coming together through virtualization and continued mixing of operating systems and server/desktop deployment. This makes me wonder if Red Hat could help Ubuntu on the server with greater support and integration of the ‘other’ Linux. Why would Red Hat do such a thing? We already see the company, wisely, offering deeper integration and support for Windows — why would they do that? The answer is reality. Enterprise datacenters and even divisions rarely run one OS, let alone Linux. There are typically Windows and others in play and there is also much greater acceptance and use of Linux, which has become less exotic and more like any other OS in the datacenter. Let’s remember too that choice and flexibility are no longer customer requests, they are expectations, and every major server vendor supports at least some OS variety.
Red Hat could also benefit from greater integration with and support for Ubuntu desktops. While Ubuntu leads among Linux consumers, it is also gaining more significance for the enterprise desktop. I believe Red Hat may be underestimating the impact of consumer desktop choices when it says it wants to leave that market alone. Ubuntu is thriving there, and it is also leveraging its desktop popularity and prowess to push further into enterprise desktops. By partnering with Canonical and building ties between Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Ubuntu desktops, Red Hat could harness Ubuntu’s popularity among technical fans (admins anyone?), consumers and enterprise users. This would only help Ubuntu’s uptake in the enterprise desktop market, and I believe there is potential for enterprise and consumer desktop success to feed off each other. I also believe this would bolster Ubuntu’s server efforts, paricularly as desktop management moves from the help desk to the datacenter.
These factors — plus the fact that a Red Hat-Ubuntu relationship is far more palatable to the larger FOSS community than say, a similar arrangement with Microsoft — lead me to believe the two Linux organizations have opportunity in banding together. Sure, they’ve differed in the past and even more recently, but I would argue Red Hat and Canonical are similar enough to produce some synergy and round out their respective open source offerings.
Red Hat and Ubuntu also have a striking similarity that could be integral to any kind of relationship, whether focused on the server, the desktop, management, virtualization or all of the above. That similarity is community. The community development of Red Hat’s Linux is often cited by those inside open source as a key to the company’s success. It has kept the community relatively happy with direction and development, and has kept them busy producing features and functionality in enterprise demand. It is Ubuntu’s community development that is often credited not only with the Linux flavor’s technical and feature advancement, but also its popularity among FOSS fans. The combination of these two communities is perhaps the most compelling argument for collaboration between them.
Maybe it’s just that I wrote a couple of reports back-to-back on the two companies and their opportunities and challenges, but I do believe Red Hat and Ubuntu could help one another and, in doing so, strengthen one another, Linux and open source in the enterprise.
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