The biggest change to Landscape 1.3 is its support for virtual Ubuntu servers running on the Amazon EC2 cloud. According to Canonical, it is now as easy to register, manage and monitor Ubuntu Amazon Machine Images on Landscape as it is to manage any other physical or virtual Ubuntu Linux systems. That includes the ability to enter a user's EC2 credentials directly via Landscape to manage EC2-based Ubuntu virtual servers.
Canonical's current foray into cloud computing suggests that it won't just settle for playing in the small-business Linux market. The latest version of Ubuntu Linux Server Edition includes a preview of Eucalyptus, a tool that will allow companies to build private clouds that are compatible with the EC2 API. The idea here is to give enterprises the ability to move distributed applications back and forth between private clouds and the public EC2 infrastructure with minimal effort.
It is important, however, not to overlook the combined benefits of Ubuntu Linux, Landscape, and EC2 for smaller companies.
Red Hat Network offers similar remote-management tools for Red Hat Enterprise Linux users. And in some ways, Red Hat's offering takes a broader approach than Landscape. RHN, for example, can also manage other operating systems, and Red Hat allows large companies to deploy an in-house version of the service.
Bear in mind, however, that Red Hat Enterprise Linux users must pay a subscription for support, software updates, and security patches. Canonical, by comparison, offers Ubuntu absolutely free of charge. Users who want Ubuntu support -- which includes access to Landscape -- may purchase it separately from Canonical.
(Canonical also offers Landscape as a stand-alone paid service for $150 per client node, not including volume discounts.)
Ubuntu is an outstanding business Linux distro, but Canonical's business model just might be the real star of this show. It allows smaller companies to minimize their up-front Linux deployment costs while still allowing them to purchase high quality support and system management services on an as-needed basis.
And while few small businesses care about deploying a private cloud-computing infrastructure, quite a few will benefit from a service like Landscape that wraps up their local and cloud-based server management duties into a single, very neat, package.