The two founders of Ubuntu, a popular flavor of Linux, announced Friday that they have established a foundation to support and propagate the Debian-Linux variant. Mark Shuttleworth, one of Ubuntus two founders, in conjunction with Canonical, has donated $10 million to kick off the project.
“Its important for us to distinguish the philanthropic and non-commercial work that is at the heart of the Ubuntu project from the commercial support and certification program that is the focus of Canonical Ltd.,” Shuttleworth said.
“The core team members employed by the Foundation will ensure that we can meet public commitments to keep Ubuntu entirely free of charge, as well as meeting commitments of support for extended periods,” he said.
The Foundation announced that it expects Ubuntu Version 6.04 to be released in April 2006 and that the desktop version of this upcoming iteration will be supported for three years, while the server version will be supported for five years.
According to the Foundation, the extended service support for this version of Ubuntu will remain free of charge under the same terms available to present iterations of Ubuntu.
Jane Silber, Canonical head of marketing, said that the launch of the new Foundation dovetails nicely with Canonicals plans.
“Demand for the commercial services offered by Canonical to Ubuntu [users] continues to grow, [and] we expect to continue to create additional partnership, certification and support programs in the coming months,” she said.
Linux industry analyst Stacey Quandt said that when Ubuntu started, it was more of a community project with, at best, an unclear revenue model. The announcement of this Foundation now indicates that Ubuntu does in fact have one.
However, Quandt said that Ubuntus advocates will find that selling Ubuntu as a viable alternative to the most popular enterprise Linux distributions, Red Hat Linux and SuSE Linux, let alone as an alternative to proprietary server operating systems such as Microsoft Windows Server, will be a challenge for the group.
“Enterprise Linux customers port to Red Hat first and then SuSE, and it will be expensive to port another distro,” Quandt said. “In order to gain adoption, software vendors must put out resources for porting, providing technical certifications and quality assurance for yet another distribution for a given application.”
At the same time, Quandt said, the Foundation, by creating a greater awareness of its product, has the potential to attract more ISVs. Moreover, she said, the Foundation offers meaningful support for the Ubuntu community.
For his part, RedMonk LLC co-founder and analyst Stephen OGrady said that he doesnt view the establishment of the Ubuntu Foundation as an attempt on Ubuntus part to put itself on equal footing with enterprise Linux distributions.
“I see it more as a way of ensuring the ongoing viability and vibrancy of the Ubuntu distribution, which is a very polished distro. Ive used it, and it does a very nice job,” OGrady said.
“Ive seen a fair amount of focus in the Linux community on using Ubuntu to get others to try Linux. It offers the latest hardware support and plug-and-play usability. Really, Ubuntu is much more of a consumer rather than enterprise distro at the current time,” he said.
In OGradys view, he said, the new Foundation gives the Ubuntu distribution a measure of credibility for ISVs and TSVs, allowing them to offer Ubuntu as a free distribution alternative to use on PCs.
“Theyre solidifying their position in the community—as well as recognizing the success of the distro in the first place,” OGrady said.