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Red Hat and Novell beware. Ubuntu Dapper Drake is coming for you.
[May 31, 2006]

Red Hat and Novell beware. Ubuntu Dapper Drake is coming for you.

(www.internetnews.com Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)
Mark Shuttleworth is about to make history again.

Four years ago, he became the second human in history to journey into space as a "tourist." Now, closer to home, he's expected to make a mark with the release of Ubuntu Dapper Drake, which may well challenge enterprise Linux frontrunners Red Hat and Novell and change the enterprise Linux landscape.

Shuttleworth's Canonical Inc. is the main sponsor of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, which is Debian GNU/Linux-derived. Ubuntu had only been making rapid distribution releases, typically six to nine months in length.

The last Ubuntu release, code-named Breezy Badger, was released in October. Before that it was Hoary Hedgehog in April.


Dapper Drake is different from its predecessors in a number of ways. Perhaps most importantly there will be a version that Canonical will support for 18 months.

Dapper Drake will also be the first mainstream Linux distribution in history to support Sun's UltraSPARC 'Niagara' based chips .

"This is quite a dramatic development for us," Shuttleworth told internetnews.com .

Shuttleworth explained that Ubuntu first got excited about supporting the SPARC architecture four months ago.

They expected it to take four to five months to validate SPARC and then an additional four to five months to get the Niagara-specific components in place. But Shuttleworth credited Sun's OpenSPARC initiative with speeding the process.

Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that Ubuntu's version of the 2.6.15 kernel will support the Niagara chips even before the regular plain vanilla kernel.org version supports them. Support in the main kernel isn't expected till version 2.6.17.

Dapper Drake will ship with the 2.6.15 Linux kernel .

The most current stable version of the Linux kernel is 2.6.16.x series.

"Most of the community work was focused on 2.6.15 because we knew that was the kernel we would go out with," Shuttleworth explained. "We were really the only large-scale distribution globally that was very excited about this and committed to making this work.

"So while 2.6.17 is the mainline kernel that will have it," Shuttleworth continued, "all of this work focused on 2.6.15."

For its part, Sun is encouraged by Ubuntu's support for Niagara and does not see it as competition for its own Solaris operating system.

Fadi Azhari, director of outbound marketing for Sun, explained that, for the company, it's about offering choice, increasing market footprint and increasing Sun's penetration.

"It doesn't undermine Solaris," Azhari told internetnews.com . "It's about new business."

Beyond Sun, Ubuntu may well serve as a natural migration path for Debian GNU/Linux users who are looking for a fully supported enterprise certified distribution.

Shuttleworth noted that, for example, Ubuntu is certified for IBM's DB2 database among a growing number of ISV certifications.

"Debian users who have been looking for that ISV certification now have a fairly easy and straightforward way to take advantage of it," Shuttleworth said.

To date, in North America if not on a global basis, Red Hat and Novell have dominated the enterprise Linux marketplace, a fact that is not lost on Shuttleworth.

"I maintain that both Red Hat and Novell are excellent companies and have brought a lot of benefits to the overall Linux space," Shuttleworth said. "I would say what Ubuntu is really doing is going after a slightly orthogonal effort.

"I don't necessarily see it as head-to-head competition with Red Hat," Shuttleworth added. "And our strategy for taking it to market is really to exploit a different kind of user and a different kind of deployment scenario."

Shuttleworth explained that the Ubuntu economic model is 'less proprietary' than his competition. In his view, the people that deploy Ubuntu are deploying Linux in large volumes and have quite a lot of internal expertise themselves. Those users only want to pay for commercial support in the specific places where they need it.

"We address slightly different needs; we'll cross paths in some places but, by and large, we're just a feature of the Linux landscape that's growing very rapidly," Shuttleworth said.

For Shuttleworth, the Ubuntu effort is partially fueled by his experience orbiting the earth as a space tourist, an experience that had a significant impact on his life.

"It's such an extraordinary experience to be part of something like that, that it can't help but influence you in all sorts of subtle ways later," Shuttleworth said.

"I certainly felt when I got back that I wanted whatever I did next to have a global feel and to do something that would recognize that we live in a very small, very connected world."

"It's a short distance from New York to Morocco in a Soyuz."

Internet.com Corp.

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