Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind the open-source Ubuntu Linux operating system, announced on March 26 that it has entered into a three-year partnership with Ericsson. As part of the deal, Ericsson will use Ubuntu as the host operating system for the Ericsson Cloud System platform. Both Ericsson and Canonical are members of the OpenStack Foundation.
It's unclear how much money Canonical will generate from the partnership, though Canonical executives do expect it to be substantial.
"We do not report on financial value of partnerships that include engineering and go-to-market collaboration," John Zannos, vice president of Alliance Partners at Canonical, told eWEEK. "However, I will say that we expect the revenue associated with this partnership to be material to both companies over the next three years."
The relationship between Canonical and Ericsson is built on an engineering and go-to-market collaboration that will go beyond just using Ubuntu as the host OS for Ericsson's Cloud System platform, according to Zannos. That said, Ubuntu as the host OS is the first phase, and Zannos noted that Canonical is working with Ericsson to keep its cloud solutions on the most recent version of the Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support), which is currently Ubuntu 14.04.
The Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, known as the "Trusty Tahr," was first released on April 17. Canonical has LTS releases every two years, and each LTS offers the promise of up to five years of support. There are also non-LTS releases that receive only nine months of security updates and support, with the most recent being the Ubuntu 14.10 "Utopic Unicorn," which was released on Oct. 23, 2014. A Ubuntu 15.04 "Vivid Vervet" release is scheduled to debut on April 23.
Canonical views the Ericsson partnership as a strategic collaboration to bring the benefits of cloud, software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) to the telecom and enterprise marketplaces, according to Zannos.
"This is a deep engineering collaboration to deliver a class-leading telco-grade product," he said. "Canonical rarely does marketing partnerships—there needs to be engineering alignment behind them."
Linux has a long history in the telco space with the Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) effort. Ubuntu Linux, however, is not a CGL-certified distribution, although, in Zannos' view, while the requirement to run telecom-specific Linux distributions was great several years ago, it has been diminishing year by year. Large amounts of telco-specific kernel functionality are now supported in Ubuntu, he added.
"What I think matters is that we work with our telco customers to truly understand what is really needed, so Ubuntu can meet the needs they have to virtualize the network," Zannos said. "There will need to be a balance between getting the scale and commoditization benefits of the cloud, while addressing network reliability and performance requirements."
Ericsson isn't Canonical's only effort in the carrier space. Canonical is also working with networking vendor Juniper on an NFV cloud platform, based on OpenStack and the Contrail SDN controller.
Looking forward, Zannos said there will be more activity from Canonical in the telco space in the coming year.
"We are also seeing more and more network switches using Ubuntu as the operating system that powers them, and more VNFs [virtual network functions] running on Ubuntu," he said. "Simply put, [telcos] need to innovate, automate and commoditize, and, increasingly, they are turning to open-source solutions."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.