Speaking to an analyst at Oracle OpenWorld this week, Shuttleworth said his company is open to a partnership with Oracle. Canonical is the maintainer of Ubuntu, a free version of the Linux operating system that has quickly become the most popular Linux distribution over the past year.
If the partnership were brought to fruition, the move could mean that IT managers interested in running Ubuntu as part of an Oracle software stack would be receiving the same support of commercial Linux distros without the vendor lock-in or expensive support contracts, said New York-based 451 Group analyst Nick Selby, who conducted the briefing with Shuttleworth. That said, an outright buyout of Canonical by Oracle is not in the cards, according to Selby.
"[This partnership] would not only mean an IT manager has the support of Canonical, but also the support of more than 200 other organizations partnered with them that offer similar services under those same flexible conditions," Selby said.
The fact that Ubuntu is free and open source also bodes well for IT managers with existing software stacks in their enterprise, they can install the OS on their servers and test it without affecting their existing deployments, he said.
"With Ubuntu [IT managers] can try a different Linux distro without too much risk," said Selby.
Shuttleworth's Oracle partnership revelation arrived on the same day that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison took the stage for a keynote at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco. Before the keynote, Oracle said it planned an announcement regarding the company's commitment to the Linux operating system.
During the keynote, Ubuntu Linux was not mentioned, but Ellison's "commitment to Linux" approach -- which consisted of Oracle undercutting Red Hat Inc. with an offer of lower support -- marked yet another point in the last six months when the outspoken executive had dropped hints about Oracle's future with Linux.
In April, Ellison said he wanted his own version of Linux for Oracle. Partnering with Ubuntu would not only save Ellison and Oracle a considerable amount of money, but experts said it would also eliminate some of the headaches associated with trying to integrate a company like Novell. A full software stack similar to Microsoft's that includes both the OS and applications is something Ellison has said Oracle is pursuing, particularly in light of Red Hat's purchase of JBoss Inc. earlier this year.
"There has been a tremendous amount of interest in Oracle on Ubuntu," Selby said. "There are enterprises that already run Oracle on Ubuntu, and [a partnership] would simply give more credibility to the message coming out of Canonical."
Selby said the speculation about Ubuntu does not end with Oracle. Another area of interest has been in consumer-related original equipment manufacturer deals with Hewlett-Packard or Dell. Shuttleworth said that Canonical is not announcing any OEM deals right now with any manufacturer in the West, but that it is just about to announce a significant OEM deal with an Indian computer manufacturer.