Canonical bids for Ubuntu Linux server credibility

Canonical Ltd. is making its case that Ubuntu, a fan favorite among the Linux desktop crowd, is also becoming a contender in Linux servers, releasing a survey of mostly Ubuntu Linux users, showing how and where they use the open source distribution.

In the run-up to the next long-term service (LTS) release of Canonical's Ubuntu Linux, the company published a survey of 2,650 Linux users -- found via a variety of Ubuntu-related forums -- showing that among companies running a large number of servers, a high percentage of those servers run Linux. Canonical maintained that 80% of that Linux is Ubuntu.

Nearly three-quarters of the respondents (72%) said they see Ubuntu as ready for their mission-critical deployments. Mission critical applications in the respondents view included backup, file server, scientific applications, email and security tasks.

There are clearly some issues with the survey in that it was funded and conducted by Canonical which itself cautioned that most respondents were likely to be in the Ubuntu camp to begin with. Still, some other evidence points to the fact that Canonical's server push has some traction.

The company hopes to push for more of the server action with the release of beta of Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) which it released to beta last week.

IDC analyst Al Gillen said he's seen Ubuntu's share in Linux servers ticking up substantially with preliminary numbers from last year showing it with "a couple of points" of market share. "That's up from zero," he noted.

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Overall IDC numbers show Linux servers with about a 13 to 14% growth rate and Red Hat remains the distribution to beat with market share in the high 60% range.

One east coast Linux specialist who works with all the distributions and so did not want to be named said there is increased interest and some adoption of Ubuntu servers in his area. In his view, that may be coming at the expense of Novell SUSE.

"Novell had made a serious dent against Red Hat but now it seems stalled and you see Ubuntu coming up. It's worth watching," he said.

Frank Basanta, COO of Systems Solutions, a New York IT integrator, said Red Hat still reigns supreme in Linux servers used by businesses, followed by Novell, but that Canonical has done some important groundwork to get Ubuntu on the short list. It is now certified to run on HP Proliant servers, for example

"They're slowly making headway. It's certified on HP servers now and these certifications are very important," Basanta said.

If an OS is certified on popular HP, Dell and/or IBM servers, business customers will be more confidant that they will get the support they need, Basanta said.

Gregg Rosenberg, founder of Ricis, Inc., a Tinley Park, Ill. integrator concurred that Ubuntu is moving in the right direction. He sees more users taking their desktop Linux choices to the server. He also sees increased usage of Ubuntu "derivatives" like Jolicloud, now in beta, taking off on netbook class devices.

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