Canonical's Ubuntu Channel Strategy: So Far, So Good - InformationWeek

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6/23/2009
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Canonical's Ubuntu Channel Strategy: So Far, So Good

One of the biggest complaints about Ubuntu Linux concerns Canonical's lack of high-profile channel partners. I'm not sure if it's a valid complaint even today -- and if it is, I doubt it will be an issue much longer.

One of the biggest complaints about Ubuntu Linux concerns Canonical's lack of high-profile channel partners. I'm not sure if it's a valid complaint even today -- and if it is, I doubt it will be an issue much longer.A recent post on The VAR Guy blog points out that Canonical has made some real progress building a first-rate channel partner program. It's an important issue for companies looking at Ubuntu Linux, since a Linux distributor's channel presence provides an easy (if not always accurate) way to measure its long-term commitment to the business Linux market.

In the past, Canonical clearly could not boast the same Linux channel presence as Red Hat and Novell. That is changing: As The VAR Guy observes, Canonical has solidified four major Ubuntu partnerships that will go a long way towards reinforcing Ubuntu's credibility as a business-ready Linux distro.

The four partners in question are:

-- Amazon.com, which gives Canonical what The VAR Guy calls "a back door into the server market," thanks to its push to build links between Ubuntu Linux and Amazon's Elastic Compute (EC2) cloud infrastructure.

-- Dell, which beefed up its existing line of pre-installed Ubuntu Linux systems with a selection of Ubuntu netbooks.

-- Bridge Education and Fast Lane, both of which are major players in the North American IT training and education market.

The last two partners aren't household names, but they are key players in the business IT market. That includes smaller companies looking for targeted, cost-effective Linux training programs that allow them to make the most out of their limited IT resources.

In addition, HP and Canonical have been building the foundation for what could become a much deeper relationship over the next year. Although HP isn't yet pre-loading Ubuntu on its systems, it has worked closely with Canonical to certify Ubuntu Linux on (at last count) 17 of its ProLiant server models.

According to one Ubuntu-watcher, HP is "essentially beta testing the Ubuntu Server market" with its existing initiatives. Given Ubuntu's strong, rapidly growing presence in the business Linux market, this source thinks it's "inevitable" that HP will enter a pre-load agreement with Canonical sooner rather than later.

All of these relationships, except for Dell, illustrate one of Canonical's biggest short-term goals: building a viable presence in the business server market. That's a tall order, since it will force Canonical into a more direct market confrontation with Red Hat.

Then again, in an IT market where Linux represents one of the few growth opportunities of any sort, this may be a situation where a rising tide lifts everyone's boat. And given Canonical's work building a real channel presence, Ubuntu now looks every bit as seaworthy as Red Hat and Novell.

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