Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'canonical'

Steve George

Canonical is looking for a business product marketing manager to lead the marketing of our portfolio of enterprise products and technologies. The objective is to increase the profile, market penetration and user-base of Ubuntu’s business products such as Ubuntu Cloud Infrastructure.

All technology companies face the problem that they think in terms of tech, but users think in terms of how a product benefits them in their specific situation. This often leads to a sales and marketing gap. In Canonical’s case Ubuntu is an operating system platform that’s used by a variety of consumer and enterprise audiences. Although our server and Cloud products are generally for enterprise users, there’s over-lap in the desktop area which is used by both. So the product marketing manager role will market Ubuntu products to businesses and organisations – whether global enterprises, academia or government.

Technology companies tend to subtly vary the way product marketing is defined, and particularly the line between product management and product marketing. As an aside there’s a nice article at Silicon Valley Product Group about this. In Canonical product managers are responsible for defining the strategic direction for a product and work closely with the engineers who are developing and delivering the technology. The product marketing managers are part of our marketing and communications department with the responsibility for defining and leading the marketing activities. By definition the two roles are closely related, but product marketing is inherently focused outwards communicating the benefits of the products to prospective users.

In order for Ubuntu to succeed in an enterprise the benefits must be clear to both the technologists (e.g. Sysadmin) who will implement it, and the management decision maker (e.g. CIO) who will sign-off its use. Consequently, our marketing activities speak to both audiences, though with more focus on technologists. On a day-to-day basis we’re a pragmatic organisation where everyone rolls their sleeves up and gets on with it. So you’ll need to use quantitative and qualitative approaches to identify addressable segments for marketing programmes. You’ll work with product management to create and polish propositions and with other members of the Comms team to form messaging. You’ll then put together marketing programmes that achieve the best ROI, iterating and improving how we reach the segment as necessary. In many instances you’ll want to take advantage of ways we can team-up with our passionate advocates to get the message out.

Canonical is a deep technology company so to be successful in this role you need to be excited about the technologies we’re developed and capable of understanding and communicating their advantages. You’ll understand how the Cloud is revolutionising enterprise IT and be able to clearly communicate where, why and how it’s impacting DevOps. Ubuntu is a key part of that equation so you’ll understand how our technologies, such as Juju, are part of that revolution. Importantly, you’ll act as a bridge to enterprise users, explaining the features and benefits of these products in the context of the challenges they face. You’ll need the capability to clearly explaining technologies, understanding the business problems they can solve for customers and undertaking marketing activities to communicate this.

The next year is full of challenges and opportunity. In April we’ll be launching 12.04 LTS which is a major enterprise release and the spring-board for our activities in the business segment over the next two years. We’re focused on expanding Ubuntu’s use in the public cloud where we are the most popular OS on platforms like Rackspace Cloud and Amazon Web Services. We believe that private and hybrid clouds will be an important part of the future for enterprises and we’re working with partners such as HP and VMWare to help them get the most from Ubuntu Cloud in their data centres. In other words it’s an important moment and we’re full steam ahead!

As an open source company our first challenge is to make sure our products are widely known and used in a playing field where proprietary vendors can outgun us in marketing spend. So the measure of success in this role is whether Ubuntu is increasing market penetration compared to the large proprietary cloud vendors such as Microsoft and Oracle. Having built-up an extensive user-base the product marketing manager also works with field marketing to convert users into customers for commercial services such as Ubuntu Advantage.

At a personal level Canonical is a dynamic organisation so you’ll need to be entrepreneurial, high-energy and collaborative – your colleagues are based around the globe ranging from offices in Taipei to being sat at home in California. I think the biggest reward will be to work with an amazing set of people at one of the most innovative technology companies around, during a time of massive industry change. If that sounds like heaven then get your application in ponto!


Tagged: Canonical, Cloud, Marketing, Ubuntu

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Steve George

Recently I attended the gaming conference Develop 2011 in Brighton. Digital entertainment (movies/music) is something Ubuntu users are excited and interested in. This means there’s an increasing opportunity for developers to create applications that those users want. So understanding the challenges, concerns and opportunities the gaming industry faces and how that might apply to Ubuntu was my focus during the conference.

Perhaps the most immediate thing that struck me is the burgeoning importance of online games. Nick Parker gave an interesting talk on funding development. The slide that stood out the most was one that showed ‘core gaming‘ (think PS3) has now peaked and that online (casual, MMOG, mobile and social) gaming is the real driver of growth for the industry. He pointed out you’re still talking about a core gaming market that’s hundreds of millions of dollars in size but nonetheless the traditional vendors haven’t yet grasped the online opportunity.

Generally, it’s difficult for new platforms to break through into games developers consciousness. At a basic level creating games is risky and expensive so develpoers target platforms with the maximum possible number of sales. To some degree online games offer a way out of this conundrum for alternative platforms: if the browser is treated as the platform then all operating systems have an equal chance. The devil is in the detail depending on the technologies used, Flash is fine from a Linux perspective, WebGL could be great but plugins (such as Unity browser plugin) are more of a problem. Perhaps the best talk I saw which combined these trends was done by Ikka Paananen who talked about the opportunities for immersive play within the browser. If you want to find out what he means try Supercells game Gunshine which works in a browser on Ubuntu just fine – in fact I lost a Sunday afternoon to it!

There also seems to be a lot of optimism about the opportunities for interesting games development: a lot of positive commentary around the opportunities around despite the wider economic conditions. A big part of this was around Indie development, with small teams able to create so much for a relatively small level of investment. A talk by Tony Pearce about raising cash for your game (supported by NESTA) illustrated this, not only was it a great talk but it was absolutely packed with developers.

Reinforcing the positive theme was a very motivating keynote given by Michael Acton Smith the CEO of Mind Candy, the company behind the super-hit Moshi Monsters. First, I’m embarassed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Mosh Monsters, it turns out that if you’re a parent then you know all about them – it’s that big! Of course, he was head-lining because it’s such a massive hit and with a suitably dramatic story where at one point they almost burned out. But, much of his talk’s insight could have been applied to any start-up or group creating new products. I heard two key things, one was that you you should explore the boundaries of your space with creativity, the other one he didn’t say directly but I was struck by how deeply he’d thought about the mechanisms and drivers that power his business. From a pure inspiration perspective the main sense was the essential energy the team brought to the journey as they explored (and continue to explore) creating something for their users. So there it is – explore creatively, think deeply and be energised!


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Steve George

Apple finally announced iCloud, reinforcing that the Cloud is ready for consumers. It validates some of the things we’ve been doing in Ubuntu and encourages us to think about how the trend will impact free software in the future.Cringley focuses on Apple targeting Microsoft by making the desktop category just like a device and moving everyone onto the Internet. Steve Jobs is quoted as saying:

“We’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device – just like an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod Touch. We’re going to move the hub of your digital life to the cloud.”

I don’t know if this targets Microsoft, I do know that Apple has done as much as anyone to make the network a central part of our digital life.

It’s clear that we all spend more time online – if you stand-back you can see see our increased dependence on the Web (we spend more time on-line than watching TV), along with how central some web apps are becoming to our lives (from Facebook to Google calendar). You might question how quickly this is happening or how widely spread: there’s not much bandwidth in Africa, and I often find it surprising how poor connectivity is in rural areas. But, that’s just a question of timing – large numbers of users already think of their computers and the Web as being synonymous.

The Web itself is rapidly becoming the standard development platform and storage medium for applications. With HTML5 and its’ extended technologies we will see increasingly complex and capable web apps: this Financial Times HTML5 app is a nice example and tweaks Apple’s tail! Even if the interface of everything can’t be a Web front-end, then data storage is also moving in that direction: increasingly users think of their content as being ‘available’ everywhere – meaning online.

From a user perspective this means we all expect to access our favourite applications and our personal data at any point from a myriad of devices. The impact on Windows is that the field is being reset, both at a software and a hardware level. Microsoft is not a cherished consumer brand that everyone loves so they will have to start over. But, it equally impacts anyone that wants to create a general operating system – Ubuntu being my concern.

If everything is on the network, and the network provides many of the applications then there’s going to be a fundamental set of shifts in how the system stack supports the user. Among the many areas, two things stand out for me.

The first theme is that we need to provide ways for users to store and access their content online. We’ve seen Apple’s system, we’re bound to see systems from all the titans of the industry as well at a lot of start-ups. This could be fantastic for users, but there’s also potential for drawbacks if there’s no standardisation – we don’t want to go back to a world of locked in data.

But it’s deeper than data, users don’t think “I need my data” they think “I want my photos of Nancy the dog” which means we need to attach storage and applications together. That’s why in Ubuntu One we talk about the personal cloud and we’re providing both applications and API’s to build on top of basic data storage and sync. Any data storage (including Ubuntu One) also needs to be available across multiple platforms so that our users can access their content whenever they want or need it. Importantly, to make the Cloud the central storage location it needs to be fully integrated and seamlessly part of the users experience – going to the ‘Web folder’ is a fail!

The second theme is that the operating system will be a window onto the Web, and this changes what it needs to present to the user and the services it provides to applications. From a user perspective we need to integrate the Web so that there’s no difference between local and network applications. Moreover, some of the metaphors of the Web are impacting how users think about interacting with their computers, take search as an example.

For applications to be truly integrated it will mean that the system stack will need to provide services that web application developers can use. For example, rather than signing into a myriad of different web applications how can the system stack authenticate me to them seamlessly. Perhaps even the idea of local and web apps will need to disappear, if we can provide technologies that help web application developers create applications that work both locally and through the network.

A final thought, I said at the start that Apple has done as much as anyone to make the vision of a connected world real. But Unix and Linux has done even more – network computing is central to our technology, and distributed community is central to our ethos. For me this means Ubuntu has great strengths it can draw on as we create this future – Ubuntu can be the operating system for the rest of us in a connected world!


Tagged: ubuntu canonical icloud

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Steve George

We added two classic games, Darwinia and Uplink, to the Ubuntu Software Center this week. It’s been a great journey working with the Introversion team to bring this software to Ubuntu and it’s great to see this result!

Hacking game Uplink

I first spoke to Mark Morris, Introversion MD, last summer explaining the concepts around the Software Center and our intent to bring a wider range of applications to Ubuntu users. It was great to explore how this system would work for commercial developers and Mark gave us great perspective on the mechanics of software publishing in the gaming industry.

We used the Introversion example internally when we were working through many of the complexities of the commercial system. And I staid in touch with Mark keeping him up to date on our progress and reflecting on his commentary.

As an Indie developer Introversion has to focus on the future, particularly their current project Subversion. So it was by no means a given that they’d be willing to take on the additional attention cost and effort of a new publishing platform. Sowe were really happy when he agreed to publish Darwinia and Uplink through our platform. And they were fully committed as we worked through putting their software into Ubuntu Software Center.

Both Darwinia and Uplink are great titles that show the quality and range of commercial games and applications that are available for Ubuntu. I hope you support them by buying and enjoying them!


Tagged: Linux, Ubuntu

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Steve George

Why wasn’t Google invented in the UK? Where are all the great British software start-ups? Why isn’t there more Open Source in the UK?

That last question may not have come up in the Chancellors budget speech, but it should have. This was my central argument to The Register this week -  to move from an economy whose value is “the loan was created in Britain”, to one where it’s “invented, designed and built in Britain” then we need to unleash innovation through Open Source.

You might think it a bit self-serving for me to be pushing Open Source as the answer to the UK’s ills. In fact, as I far too passionately made my points to Lucy Sherriff, it crossed my mind that I could fully conform to my own stereotype of “special pleading corporate PR” by next asking for special tax breaks and complaining about unspecified (but nonetheless burdensome) “red-tape”! Nonetheless, I believe that technology and Open Source have to be key elements in the rebalancing of the UK’s economy.

First, lets put back into the box the idea that the UK cannot do technology, and that we should just leave it to Silicon Valley. The funny thing is that when you pull up the covers on successful valley technology companies you’ll find plenty of Brits. That shouldn’t be a surprise, the education system in the UK is strong, we have a fantastic tradition in science and engineering, and the language/culture compatibility helps. Finally, it completely ignores the evidence of the technology companies we do have, from successful start-ups such as Last.fm through to majors like ARM.

Perhaps it’s that cultural contrarianism that makes us unable to dwell on the positive or accentuate the good. A national character of, you say “tomato”, I say “no, it’s a squashed, bruised, fruit that tastes anaemic and who knows the long-term effects of the pesticides”. So, lets not waste any more bits on this – the UK has great technology capabilities and we should celebrate them!

So why is Open Source an important element in creating an environment that can create success for our technologists and economy? Because, it’s a leveller and a remover of locked-in de-facto networks. Open source releases innovation and provides ways for companies of all sizes to compete, bringing greater competition and delivering more value to everyone.

First, government wants to encourage start-ups and small business. There’s lots of policy options, but a big (perhaps the biggest) lever is government procurement. Our tax money should be used to buy great value technology, provided by local companies if at all possible. Governments know this, but they’re often concerned that small suppliers will fail – it’s a real concern because it happens. Mandating that the technology be Open Source removes that concern. That way if the supplier fails it can be supported and maintained by an alternative supplier. And, in the long-run you create a competitive national set of technology companies that will be employing locally and providing services far more efficiently than a small number of multi-national conglomerates (yes, looking at you Oracle).

Second, Open Source enables a local (ie national) supplier ecosystem to be created. Fundamentally, if our technology companies just resell proprietary software that’s developed by the large multinationals they will lack the skills to innovate and create on their own. Open Source is customisable and enables the suppliers to develop the same skills that will be needed to create products. There’s no black-boxes in Open Source, so if someone spots an opportunity or a gap they can understand it and innovate from there.

Third, Open Source provides more flexible and capable systems for end-users. My biggest fear about proprietary software is that it destroys enquiry in our children and students – it’s a curiosity trap. How many of the stories about great inventors (whether software or not) start with them taking apart everything they could get their hands on, from clocks to cars. They had a spirit of enquiry, a curiosity to understand and then improve.

In this era Open Source is the biggest library of software on the planet. In any domain, sphere or software idea there’s an Open Source project and some of the most skilled developers on the planet out there working on it. And everyone can read, understand and enquire – how short a step is it for the imagination to be fed and the idea of improving to occur? It’s terrible to anaesthetise our children and students with the idea that they shouldn’t look under the hood or understand what’s happening. That’s exactly what proprietary software does. And we risk missing the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates because of it.

So really George (Osbourne in this case), stop throwing tax dollars at bribing multi-national banks to keep taking space in Canary Wharf. Unleash the UK into the forefront of the global technology revolution by adopting an industrial policy that develops technology as a key area, and for goodness sake make Open Source part of that mix. You know I’m right!


Tagged: Canonical, innovation, Linux, Ubuntu

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Steve George

To go with the Software Business Development role we also opened up an Ubuntu Developer Relations Advocate job as the two areas are closely related. Business Development is focused on working with developers at a business level, fundamentally creating a revenue-generating relationship.  Developer relations is focused on working with developers at a technical level, providing resources, assistance and community.  Both roles could be speaking to the same people in a small developer shop, but the focus of the conversation is different and we need both to help developers be successful.

Fundamentally, the objective of developer relations is to provide a focus for evangelising the platform and assisting developers as they develop software for Ubuntu. One thing to clarify is that the type of development we mean here is ‘developing applications that run on Ubuntu‘, with the desired outcome being that we increase the range of applications available to Ubuntu users. So this is different to a lot of our other community relations work which is aimed at contributors to Ubuntu. Another point is that our focus is on commercial software developers since we believe that it’s important to create a sustainable ecosystem around the platform: that doesn’t exclude FOSS since Open Source can be commercial – although being realistic I expect that most of the commercial software will be proprietary.

Developer relations is a mixed role, it’s partially to evangelise the platform and attract developers, and partially assisting developers by giving them resources and a community. I group the responsibilities into three areas – attracting, enabling and enthusing. By attracting we mean communicating and showing how great the Ubuntu platform is for developers. This covers the Ubuntu distribution but also developer enabled technologies such as Unity, UbuntuOne and distribution through the Software Center. To enable developers we need to provide resources they can use to develop on Ubuntu explaining the tools and technologies that are part of the platform and how to use them.  A key difference between Ubuntu and other platforms is that we aim to be participatory and transparent. So the most important element of ‘enabling’ is that we want to create a Developer Community: we’re focusing our attentions on developer.ubuntu.com which you can think of as the equivalent to IBM’s Developer Works or Apple’s Developer Center. This is a real connector role so a key part will be working with the wider world, and coordinating internal Canonical teams and exciting everyone so that we’re all working together to the common goal.

Finally, there’s lots of discussion whether Developer Relations should sit within an engineering department or within a marketing organisation, which depends on your objectives. In our case the focus is increasing the range of software that is available on Ubuntu which is a long-range business development strategy aimed at strengthening the platform, so we’ve chosen to put Developer Relations within that team so we can have the best connections. Either way at heart it’s a technical role that is all about communications by helping developers get the most from the platform – being their advocate.

We know the objective and the strategy, how to drive it forward is open territory that will need leadership, energy and tenacity. If you have experience in Developer Relations and some of the thoughts above chime with your own ideas then hop across to the Ubuntu site where you can read the job description and apply!


Tagged: Canonical, developers, Linux, Ubuntu

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Steve George

Canonical is looking for a software business development consultant focusing on helping consumer third-party developers (ISV’s) and content providers bring their products to Ubuntu.  It deserves a bit of background and an explanation of why this is important for Ubuntu.

Let me start with a slight digression: I went skiing over the holidays but forgot my GPS, it was a bit annoying as I like to keep a record of where I’ve skied off-piste.  Luckily, I had my phone so I simply purchased, downloaded (Over-The-Air) and installed a GPS app.  If you stop for a second, this is a pretty amazing capability. Even a few years ago the idea of using my phone in this way wouldn’t have been in the realms of possibility – but increasingly every device we have is multi-functional and extended by third-party software capabilities. In fact, any platform that doesn’t have this flexibility is at a severe disadvantage.

If you’re a software device manufacturer or consumer operating system vendor it’s no longer sufficient to scope your capabilities to driving the hardware and providing the core experiences. Users expect their devices to be ubiquitous, connected and social which means that platforms need to be personal and flexible to their needs. So every consumer device OS needs to be a (for want of a better label) “software platform” that can be used to create those experiences along with an active developer ecosystem creating them. It’s this set of consumer expectations that drives Android and iPhone to put so much pressure on ‘apps’ and even in contexts like the desktop this is happening (ie Mac App Store).  But it doesn’t end there, applications are only half the story, content (whether created or consumed) is an integral part of the desired user experience.

To provide such a range of experiences is impossible for any single vendor, so the consumer platforms have responded by creating ecosystems of relationships that build the applications, media and content that users want. Both in terms of user needs and the distribution mechanisms that these software platform provide it’s a massive opportunity for software developers. It’s also an opportunity for media and online organisations that mediate and distribute content experiences, with all the challenges that this involves.

This is why as Ubuntu expands as a consumer platform we need to build the range of software and content experiences for our users.  Each month we ship on a larger range of devices (desktops, laptops and mobile devices), which reach a wider set of consumer users (both in experience and geography) so the overall needs of our users are broadening and deepening. Ubuntu users want the latest games (can anyone say Angry Birds), entertainment (e.g Boxee) and productivity applications.  The Ubuntu Software Center creates a system so that third-party developers can reach Ubuntu users, distribute their software and monetise through the Ubuntu playment platform.

As I said earlier, software and content are somewhat bound together from a user perspective: is Spotify software or content for example? So from an Ubuntu user perspective we also need to think about each media and content experience and work with partners to deliver those to them.  We’ve already done lots of work with UbuntuOne and music, but there’s all sorts of additional media experiences that need development.

So our long-term objective is to create a large ecosystem of third-party software applications for Ubuntu consumers which are distributed and sold through the platform. In addition, we are seeking to work with third-party content providers such as music, movie and e-book vendors to deliver the range of content that consumer users expect. I’m excited about this area for Ubuntu and for our partners so today we’ve created a new software business development role: if it’s something that excites you and you have the right experiences I’d encourage you to apply.


Tagged: business development, Canonical, jobs, Linux, sales, Ubuntu

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Steve George

When I started using Linux in the mid 90′s almost all of the developers were part-time, even Linus Torvalds had another job and did kernel development part time. These days many of the core Linux projects (from the kernel through to Firefox) have full-time paid developers. Consequently, Open Source has been able to progress more in the last 10 years than the previous 20 years of development.

However, there’s still no independent software industry around the platform: I mean by this development shops that create application software for Linux. This is a problem. On the developer side it means we often lose programmers to other platforms as they move across to a space where they can earn a living. On the user side it prevents a range of users from using Linux because the range of software isn’t there to suit their needs. Both sides of this equation need to be solved for Linux to become a mainstream desktop platform. It’s these long terms problems that we’re trying to impact through the software center and the related threads.

If you look at other platforms, such as Mac, you see there’s a strong hobbyist or casual developer group who are very influential.  This group has often made the most exciting, compelling and breakthrough applications and utilities.  When the Mac desktop wasn’t cool (ie OS 9) this group kept the platform alive by creating great new software for users.  It’s also this type of developer who was the first to adopt the ipod/iOS application space and who has been so important advocating the platform. These developers create software because they love doing so, and they get a positive kick out of the direct and indirect appreciation from users.

Free Software developers often cite the community aspect of being in the open as a driver for working on software.  But there’s fewer ways for a user to show direct appreciation for the work. So we’ve been thinking about adding the ability for Ubuntu users to donate to free software applications that they love. It will provide a way for users to show their appreciation, and this positive feed-back will encourage the developer to keep cranking out great software.  My expectation is that the value of donations will be in users showing their love and that it will provide for the odd “free beer”.

There have been previous ideas and blueprints around donations in Ubuntu, so at UDS we discussed adding this feature to Software Center.

From a user perspective the experience will be that they’ll switch on donations and charge their account.  They’ll then be able to donate to individual applications within the software center.  It should be a straightforward user-experience but the variety of requirements to fulfill this properly is complex. There’s core problems like storing money within an account, how you process transactions and what the user can see within Software Center – I’m sure they’d like to see what they’ve donated to for example.

On the developer side of the equation the experience should be that a software project registers for donations and provides financial details. Then when some set of donations is received it’s paid out to their account. The core part of the discussion at UDS was around how you identify the right person to give the donations to.  This a difficult problem. The proposal for the initial release is that we’ll switch on donations for software which has a foundation and has the legal structures to receive donations.

It’s a really exciting idea and one I believe will make a difference to encouraging free software. If you’d like to give feedback or track development add yourself to the blueprint.


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Steve George

I hope you didn’t miss the fantastic news that Dell has expanded the PowerEdge servers that are certified for Ubuntu Server Edition. We’ve also worked with them to port and package OpenManage 6.3 to Ubuntu which is important for anyone who uses this systems management framework.

Expanding the range of certified hardware is an ongoing process and it’s worth considering why it’s important. When we started Ubuntu Server Edition one of the most significant frustrations for Debian/Ubuntu based sysadmins was hardware compatibility. While a server would “mostly” work there would be small but significant issues that prevented sysadmins being able to depend on them. Consequently, we’ve worked with the server manufacturers to expand their certifications to cover Ubuntu. By working together we’re able to test and validate the whole system, ensuring a higher level of testing.

Using certified Dell hardware with Ubuntu Server means you have the assurance that everything will work together without a hitch. Second, if you do have a hardware issue and contact Dell they won’t tell you to remove Ubuntu and put a “certified OS” on the hardware to verify the problem. Finally, if you’ve purchased Ubuntu Advantage from Canonical it means that we can resolve any technical issue in conjunction with Dell.

Expanding the pool of certified hardware is something that every Ubuntu server user can encourage. The next time you’re purchasing a server for use with Ubuntu consider if you can do the following:

a. Buy hardware which is certified

Certifying hardware costs the OEM and Canonical significant amounts of money. So by buying certified hardware you incentivise the OEM to continue certifying Ubuntu. Clearly an OEM will expand the OS support for the operating systems that sell more hardware.

b. Tell your vendor you’ll be using Ubuntu
It’s common amongst Linux users to buy the hardware without an OS and then to load it themselves. The problem is that the OEM doesn’t know the OS you care about: and it’s even worse if you buy a server with Windows on it because it’s on a special offer.

So it’s important to inform your vendor that you’ll be using Ubuntu on the systems even if you’re buying it bare.

c. Ask your vendor to certify Ubuntu
If you have an account manager and buy servers on a regular basis then ask them to request expanding certification. Every company listens to what the sales people tell them.

Separately, it’s worth knowing that if you purchase Ubuntu Advantage and are using it with certified hardware then Canonical can provide a higher level of care as we can work with the OEM if there are any issues over drivers and because we have access to the hardware. You can see everything that’s certified from Dell on the Ubuntu certified list.

Image credit: John Seb


Tagged: Linux, Ubuntu

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Steve George

I participated in a panel on the “Disruptive Effects of Open Source” at the Future World Symposium which discussed how OSS is impacting the software world, the degree of that change and the limitations.

The conference was held by the NMI whose charter is to represent and usher the interests of the electronics industry in the UK. It may not be something you think about on a daily basis but the UK has a pretty successful electronics sector with companies like ARM, Freescale, Imagination and others. Now that our political masters have got over their finance kick perhaps they’ll focus more attention on encouraging these technology sectors!

Anyway, with a electronics industry audience I was concerned to make my comments interesting and relevant. As became clear from some of the other presentations electronics companies face incredible opportunities where the number of devices and connectivity options between them are proliferating. However, there are also significant challenges as sectors converge with each other, and international competition hots up.

Glyn Moody chaired the discussion and my initial comments were to explain that Open Source is not a business model. Rather, it is a development and licensing model which brings many impacts and there are a variety of permutations for why you might use OSS or build a product using OSS. For example, in some cases organisations collaborate through OSS because there’s no value in differentiation, a “shared investment” model: a good example is Web 2.0 companies who collaborate to improve their infrastructure software. Another area is where you want to speed up the velocity of innovation. The value of  OSS is that it can create a community of contributors and advocates: a good example is the web browser where Firefox has driven significant direct and spin-off innovation.

I wanted to make sure that the audience was clear that open software is not inimitable with proprietary or mixed solutions. Since I was addressing an audience that might not know Open Source well, and whose livelihoods depend on Intellectual Property (IP) I wanted to make sure that they were clear that OSS values this just as much. Furthermore, that OSS should be a key part of any technology companies strategy as it’s a leveller of competition.

We then talked about the various rights and responsibilities that working with OSS confers, the value and opportunities around communities. I sometimes feel that in those circumstances it can all seem too much if you go from the idea of a closed ecosystem immediately to the idea of developers being able to download any piece of code from the Internet and use it. So I focused my comments on the value of vendors acting as mediators between the open-ended nature of Open Source projects and the more controlled world of a procurement policy. I’m certainly not unbiased here, but a vendor can provide lots of value by mediating this world, helping customers to navigate it, providing legal and technical support – along with the protections and reassurance that companies like to have. I wanted to make sure the audience was clear that it doesn’t have to be the “wild west” when using OSS.

In the final section the questions explored the range, limitations and future directions for Open Source. Since we were getting close to lunch I wanted to provoke a reaction. My main statement was that eventually there will be a major Open Source solution and vendor in every technology segment. The direction of Linux over the previous ten years shows the manner in which OSS expands across all niches and we can see the impact it’s had in other segments such as databases and today we see it in mobile phones. And that in any segment where there is a sufficiently wide interest in sharing the cost of development, increasing the speed of innovation through a community or rebooting the competition then OSS would eventually take place. Consequently,  I suggested that if there wasn’t an OSS competitor then a company should consider getting first mover advantage before their competitors do

I thought I’d come up with a controversial answer to the question and was quite surprised there wasn’t a strong reaction from the audience. Perhaps they considered me too tainted as an OSS vendor.

So there you go, I managed to learn something about the electronics industry and just about avoided telling them that they should Open Source everything immediately! I’m sure they’ll invite me again next year.


Tagged: Linux, Ubuntu

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Steve George

One of the impacts of everything going digital is that the amount of data we store and use is exploding. This gets a lot of attention in the Web 2.0 area, but it’s equally true in enterprises.  In many ways databases have been revolutionised by Open Source, I find it hard to imagine the Web without MySQL or Postgres.

That’s at the volume and scale end of the spectrum, in the hard-core enterprise Oracle and IBM remain the power houses that corporate customers use for their mission critical deployments. As a market it’s worth 19 billion dollars according to an IDC report: Oracle has 44% of that market, and second is IBM DB2 with 21%. So I was very happy to see that the IBM DB2 team has certified Ubuntu 10.04 LTS for IBM DB2 7.2 .

This means that the whole suite of DB2 Enterprise Server Edition, DB2 Workgroup Server Edition, DB2 Personal Edition and DB2 Express Edition are validated on Ubuntu 10.04. It’s obvious that this is an important validation for Ubuntu as it demonstrates that the IBM DB2 team believes Ubuntu is an important platform to validate against. That’s not new, as IBM previously validated 8.04 LTS, but it’s worth drawing attention to because the enterprise server space is conservative and this shows IBM’s long-term commitment.

In terms of how partners interact with Ubuntu it’s also pleasing the way that the IBM DB2 team has been able to efficiently update the certification to the next LTS release. The fixed release cycle, every two years, means they know exactly when the next LTS will be available and can calendar it into their development cycles. And that is a benefit that’s important for ISV’s because validation is expensive and uncertain, so making it that little bit easier is a good thing!

While we’re on DB2 I’ll point you at the DB2 Enterprise-C virtual appliances on Amazon EC2.  The objective is to enable developers who are already using DB2 on Ubuntu to have an option on the Amazon cloud, and for those that love Ubuntu and would like to try DB2 an easy route to do so. So check it out!


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Steve George

The new release of Landscape in time for the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS release attracted some nice articles in the Linux press. The majority of the features this time around are designed to help enterprise Ubuntu users who are managing a large number of systems. If you have hundreds of servers in your enterprise then you need to be able to see the “Landscape of your deployment” and react to issues quickly. There’s more detail on the main features in my previous Landscape post.

First up is Sean Michael Kerner at Linux Planet who did a nice write-up titled Canonical Landscape 1.5 Extends Ubuntu Linux Management for Enterprises on the release.  He pays particular attention to the enterprise authentication and the LTS upgrades with a nice quote from Ken Drachnik:

“We find that most enterprises are using LTS’s, so as part of this release, we wanted to have the automated ability to just click a button and say ‘Yes, upgrade me’ and then Landscape would automatically download the packages and do the upgrade”

Over at The Register, Timothy Prickett Morgan focuses talks about the Cloud aspects of the new release in his article Canonical updates Landscape manager. With UEC a key part of our server product and the work we’re doing on Amazon EC2 there’s lots of interesting things that Landscape can do to help users manage Ubuntu in these environments.

Finally, Joe Panettieri at WorksWithU discusses Landscape 1.5: The Implications for Ubuntu Customers and Partners where he summarises the key elements of the release and considers how the Amazon EC2 management might be of interest to partners.   He specifically asks for examples of how Landscape is being successful with corporate customers. And as if by magic we can point him at this case study by PlusServer AG which we just put up, and it’s definitely worth a read!


Tagged: Canonical, landscape, Linux, Ubuntu

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Steve George

We released a new version of Landscape our management service for Ubuntu last week. There’s a slew of new features including server templates, simple upgrades and enterprise authentication support.  Whether you’re managing a few systems or as many as Google the new features make system administration simpler!

Landscape’s objective is to make managing and monitoring hundreds of Ubuntu systems as easy as looking after one. Whether you’re managing some Ubuntu desktops, or looking after a Web server farm Landscape lowers the complexity of administering those systems: no-one wants to apply patches to hundreds of machines manually! For IT managers this means that Landscape makes system administrators more effective and efficient. Landscape also ensures that deployed Ubuntu systems are secure with maintenance patches and upgrades.

Landscape is provided as a software service so every six months Canonical releases a new version that is available to all subscribers. There’s also an on-site version available to customers that have security policies or regulations that prevent them using a SaaS management platform. In line with Ubuntu 10.04 the main features of the new version are:

Package profiles
Many sites have sets of servers that do similar jobs, for example “web serving“. Ideally you want those machines to have the same set-up reducing management overhead.

The ability to create templates of the packages installed on a particular system and then apply those to different machines makes it easy to replicate a standard install. It also ensures that you maintain consistent profiles across your systems as time goes by. Finally, if you need to re-provision or expand resources you can use profiles to ensure it’s a repeatable process. Package Profiles is really great for managing configurations.

Release upgrades
If you’re managing more that a handful of Ubuntu systems then doing upgrades is going to take a lot of time. Whether that’s every six months in time with the standard releases, or every two years for the LTS releases, it’s a significant commitment. To reduce that overhead you can now do upgrades between releases using Landscape.

Upgrades between releases are always complex so this doesn’t remove the need for backups and careful attention. Nonetheless, if you’ve used Package Profiles, it will be easier to test an upgrade on a test system and then when you’re happy apply it to all the deployed systems using the same package profile. Rather than having to access every machine and do the process by hand you can upgrade a group at a time.

Enterprise authentication
Enterprises commonly have a corporate standard for authentication such as LDAP or on a Microsoft Windows network Active Directory. The new version of LDS connects to these systems authenticating administrators from the existing authentication system. This ensures that customers can simplify their authentication set-up and enforce authorisation from a single corporate directory.

There’s more information in the press release and you can read more about it in the Canonical blog post or try it out with a free trial.


Tagged: Canonical, landscape, Linux, Ubuntu

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Steve George

What software will Canonical provide support for? That’s probably one of the questions you were asking if you read my previous post about commercial service subscriptions and bug resolution. Or perhaps not, but it’s a rhetorical device that suits me for this post!

Generally speaking for an application to be supported as part of a service subscription it has to be within the Main repository. This is because applications within the Main repository receive public maintenance (bug fixes and security updates) for the life-cycle of the release.

In order for an application to move into Main it goes through a stringent security and quality assurance assessment. As part of this review Canonical’s engineers inspect the code and ensure that they are able to maintain it. Consequently, those engineers also provide bug-fixes and maintenance for Canonical customers.

I find it interesting that generally the ability to maintain and fix code is one type of developer skill-set, while writing new features is a different one. Colin Watson recently told me that an early manager had told him that there are two types of developers in the world, those that create things and those that finish them off. Intuitively that feels right to me and by definition a distribution is focused on the latter where integration, polish and quality assurance rule.

The second issue is how do you know which software is covered within the Ubuntu service that you subscribed to? Some Linux distributions deal with this by covering all the software that they physically ship to customers. However, in Ubuntu’s case most users receive the software electronically so this doesn’t work. Second, the Main archive and seeds are relatively fixed and don’t map well to a subscription service for a particular target market. Essentially this means it’s hard to reflect the services within the technology.

Consequently, when a customer purchases a particular service subscription they receive a Service Description. This describes the scope of support, the bug-fixing coverage, the legal indemnification, the software components covered and the response levels. For example, a consumer desktop service wouldn’t cover complex integration problems with a Microsoft Windows network, while this would be critical for a corporate subscription designed for customers with legacy networks. Effectively, the description tries to describe the types of use-cases and categories that are covered.

I hope this has given a bit of insight into how Canonical does support and bug-fixes for our customers.


Tagged: Canonical, Linux, Ubuntu

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Steve George

If you have a commercial subscription service for Ubuntu how do we prioritise fixing bugs? This was at the heart of a conversation I had with a customer recently.

For business users Ubuntu’s advantage is often flexibility. Adding another system to the data centre is simply a matter of starting it up. This contrasts with proprietary UNIX and the other commercial Linux vendors where license management creates deployment friction.

Nonetheless, it’s hardly “free” if you can’t use the software. And Ubuntu, like all software, has bugs and issues – particularly when you’re using it in a complex environment. To resolve these issues professional users need access to expertise when there’s an issue.

In the proprietary world the license agreement commonly includes support so the customer presents the bug and they should get a resolution.

Ubuntu’s free nature presents a more nuanced picture. Every Ubuntu user is able (and encouraged) to put bugs into Launchpad. Many of these bugs will be resolved by Ubuntu community developers or Canonical’s developers as we work on the next release of Ubuntu.

Nonetheless, any individual bug is a needle in a haystack. Ubuntu receives vast numbers of bugs from our user-base so there’s no guarantee that any individual bug will get a response or a resolution. There’s inherently no prioritisation of one user over another as all members of the Open Source community are equal. Additionally, bugs are generally resolved in the version of Ubuntu under development rather than the one that the problem is reported against. The need for certainty of response and resolution is the value of a formal relationship with Canonical.

A service agreement means that the customers bugs are guaranteed a response, that the issue will be dealt with by an Ubuntu expert and that the issue will be prioritised. For Canonical engineers customer bugs are prioritised over general development work and are split into categories by urgency.

Initially when the customer presents the case the GSS (Global Support & Services) team triage it and where possible come up with an immediate workaround. If the bug requires code development then it is escalated to the appropriate engineering group. This is where a resolution for the version of Ubuntu that the customer is using is created. This is generally delivered to the customer as a custom package for them to use immediately. The resolution is then integrated into the version of Ubuntu under development so that there won’t be a regression when the customer upgrades to the next release.

So flexibility is the Ubuntu advantage, and the advantage of working with Canonical is there’s a canonical resource for Ubuntu expertise.


Tagged: Linux, Ubuntu

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Steve George

This week I’ve been in China talking about Ubuntu 10.04 and learning how Ubuntu is used. I’ve learned alot and it’s been a great opportunity to encourage businesses and partners to extend their use of Open Source (Ubuntu in particular!). I’ve really enjoyed this trip and it’s been fantastic to meet so many new people.

Like everyone else I’ve been struck by the energy in China. Everything from the traffic to the rate of technology change is done at full pace. China is a country that is growing up rapidly, across the board there’s great confidence and a total focus on how to grow both in domestic markets and in global trade.

It’s a country with significant divides between the urban and rural communities. One project we’ve been working on is to provide a PC that can be used in rural communities and education. The objective is to provide a platform for those groups to improve their lives, careers and education. The team has done a fantastic job and it’s great to see Ubuntu being part of this project.

I’ve come away convinced that Open Source is an ideal solution for many of the different challenges. Of course it’s cheaper than proprietary solutions and that has significant impact. But, more importantly Open Source and Ubuntu can deliver tailored solutions from the desktop through to the server and into the Cloud. This ability to fit into many niches as a flexible solution and help drive innovation is a key advantage for Ubuntu users.

I’d like to thank Richard, ZengPeng and Juergen for showing me around and Fanny Yeh for helping me navigate the region (particularly with the volcanic clouds!)


Tagged: Linux, Ubuntu

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Steve George

Wavesat is using the Bazaar version control system for commercial development making it simpler and easier for their teams to collaborate around the world. It’s a great example of Open Source delivering cost savings and innovation to business users. We’ve recently put up a case study that gives more details.

Bazaar (Bzr) is a distributed version control system. It’s an essential tool for developers: there’s a great guide to revision control on betterexplained.com. When people state that there’s no innovation in Open Source, distributed revision control is one of the examples that counters this.

Bazaar is particularly well suited to distributed development because the concept is built-in right from the start. Perhaps it’s testament to the open source development process which is by its nature distributed. For a business like Wavesat that has developers based in different locations this means they can be more efficient.

Canonical sponsors the development of Bazaar because distributed revision control is critical in Open Source development. But, it’s also something that companies can benefit from so we provide commercial services for Bazaar. This consists of helping organisations migrate, along with providing support and training. For organisations with an existing version control system such as CVS or Perforce we help with the migration to a new work-flow using Bazaar on Linux (Ubuntu, RHEL, SLES) or a legacy operating system such as Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac. Check out the case study for more information.


Tagged: bazaar, bzr, Linux, Ubuntu

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Steve George

Want to know Canonical’s secret business plan? Or find out the latest features we’re working on in Ubuntu or UbuntuOne? Then hop over to the Canonical Voices site.  It’s a blog aggregator that provides a single location for Canonical employees to blog and engage with the wider world.

Many Canonical employees develop Ubuntu directly making them members of the Ubuntu community so their views already appear on Ubuntu Planet. However, there are lots of Canonical employees who work in other areas, such as with OEM’s, or on UbuntuOne, in marketing or with business customers. Canonical voices brings together everyone in the company and provides a single place where you can see the breadth of their views, opinions and thoughts.

As an Open Source technology company we’re working within a variety of communities; sometimes that means an Open Source project, but it could mean a group of users or a set of companies. So it’s important for us to be transparent and to engage in a conversation – encouraging understanding and perhaps sparking interesting ideas. Canonical Voices provides a space for that.

A connected point is that Canonical hires a lot of intelligent, opinionated and interesting people who are great communicators. Hopefully, Voices will provide a focus and context for those that want to blog, sparking everyone within the company to feel they are part of an organisation wide conversation. Personally, I’ve been reading Voices regularly for the last few weeks and I’ve already learnt lots of interesting things about other projects within Canonical.

I can’t promise that I’ll be any better at blogging regularly, I’ve already broken quite a few promises and resolutions on that front! Nonetheless, I’ve started aggregating posts about Ubuntu, Linux and Canonical over to the Voices site. Please check it out and become part of the conversation!


Tagged: Ubuntu

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Steve George

A very long time ago, in a parallel universe managing backups on Linux was a real headache.  If you can remember all the way back to the mid 90′s these wasn’t journaling or iSCSI and Linux wasn’t as stable as it is now – so having good backups was your only lifeline! Arkeia was the the first back-up software that I used for the linux systems, at the time most of the other vendors didn’t support Linux. Of course there were free software options, but they were really hard to use. And anyway, we didn’t want backup, we wanted restore. So Arkeia it was, and it worked very well.

As backup is so easy to ignore, anything that makes it easier is good news. That’s why it’s great news that Arkeia now supports Ubuntu. They recently announced that Arkeia Network Backup version 8 is available on Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. Arkeia have also signed up as a Silver Partner in the Ubuntu Partner programme.

Arkeia is a network backup system, so it’s suitable for a networked environment. There’s a central backup server where all the backups are stored on disk or tape, and individual clients are installed on each system within the network. The agent itself is available for Ubuntu, RH, Novell SUSE, OSX and Windows. So in one scenario you can use an Ubuntu server as the central backup server and install agents on all the other systems in your network. Alternatively, if you have an existing Arkeia set-up this announcement means you can install the agent on your Ubuntu systems and back them up to your existing backup server.

If you’d like to try out Arkeia they’re also offering a free version for Ubuntu users. A pre-licensed version is available through the Ubuntu partner repository, so if you have this switched on then a simple apt-get install arkeia will download and install it. With this free license you can backup two systems (any platform including Windows and OSX) with up to 250GB of files whether tape or disk based. See their documentation for more information.

If you don’t have a backup system this is a great way to get started.


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Steve George

Ubuntu home server

One of the most common requests the Ubuntu community asks for is a home server or small business server.  This Beepstar post, The trouble with Ubuntu Server for beginners, encapsulates the argument nicely when the article says:

“95% of the would-be “nixers” are completely stunned, at that point when the Ubuntu Server installation states that it has finished and all that’s offered to the user is a black screen and a prompt line. Users … basically scrap the whole thing, install Windows and use … solutions which lack raw power but come with an comprehensive interface”

It’s certainly an interesting point, we can surmise that one of the things that heavily assisted the growth of Windows on the server was the Graphical User Interface (GUI) that came with NT 3.5 and NT 4. At the time the competitive product was Netware which was the dominant technology for providing servers in LAN’s, and networks were themselves reasonably new for small business networks. Windows rode the networking trend really well, and gave advanced technical users (rather than professional IT staff) the idea that they could run their own servers.

I’ll come back to the question of whether Ubuntu server should be trying to focus in this area for a moment, and just focus on technology problems we face in providing a home server. There’s two elements:

a. A set of common services
The use-cases are relatively straight-forward but the key is the integration.  So we’d want thinks like basic file and print, with network services.

b. A nice user experience
An easy to use interface that can guide the user through the initial installation, but also the reconfiguration and management of the services.

We’ve been working on common services in Ubuntu server and ensuring that they’re well integrated and easy to set-up as this makes every system administrators life easier.  So making LAMP easy to install, integrating the experience of attaching to a Windows Network and the recent e-mail stack work all make setting up common services easy and quick.

To provide a graphical user experience there are a range of options.  There’s some well-known free software options, the two most well-know are E-Box and Webmin.  There’s also commercial control panels such as Plesk which is used a lot by hosting providers.

It’s difficult to see a way to integrate one of these panels as the default way of adminstering  an Ubuntu server as the impact on professional users would be dramatic.  For various reasons these tools assume that you only manage the system through the GUI.  So there’s no way to integrate them that would maintain the freedom of professional system administrators to manage the system using the command line interface.

Meanwhile, professional system administrators face a different set of problems.  The shift of delivering everything through a web server and the introduction of virtualization and cloud computing is causing an explosion of server instances.  So for these use cases the focus is on a small, efficient server with centralised configuration management capability.

The compromise may well be a small, powerful server platform aimed for cloud computing.  Then a range of appliances (virtual or otherwise) built  to meet the specific needs of both professional and personal (ie home) users.  There’s been a few different community efforts along these lines and I hope we’ll see more.

A few members of the Ubuntu Server Team wrote about this a while ago, so check out the posts by Dustin, Soren and Thierry.

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