Enterprise Unix Roundup: Dapper Day for Dapper Drake
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June 1 marks Republic Day in Ireland, Madaraka Day in Kenya, and Independence Day in Western Samoa. For the IT geeks around the world, it also marked the date of the long-awaited arrival of Ubuntu Linux 6.06 LTS, otherwise known as the Dapper Drake.
For the uninitiated, the version number stands for the year and month of a particular release of Ubuntu. Thus, 2006 in the month of June gets you 6.06. The next release of Ubuntu, codenamed Edgy Eft, will be 6.10. Normally Ubuntu is on a strict six-month release schedule, but back in April the founder of the Ubuntu distribution, South African billionaire Mark Shuttleworth, called for a six-week delay in the release of the popular Debian-based distribution. The delay, Shuttleworth stated at the time, was to get Ubuntu ready for a whole new customer base: the enterprise.
So, today, Dapper Drake walks among us, fulfilling the needs of its desktop-oriented user base and, its developers hope, the needs of enterprise server users. To meet those needs, Ubuntu 6.06 comes with a new graphical installer with desktop and server installation schemes. Both flavors of 6.06 will be supported on Intel x86, AMD x86/64, and PowerPC chips. The server edition, as noted recently in the press, will also support the SPARC platform and the dual-core Niagara platform.
The other thing this release brings to the table is long-term support (that would be the "LTS" in the version name). How long term? Try five years, a support package Shuttleworth's corporate presence in Ubuntu, Canonical, will manage. That's a big jump from Ubuntu's usual 18-month support packages.
Ubuntu and Canonical's relationship poses an interesting dichotomy. On the one side, is Ubuntu, a community-supported distribution. In a briefing with us on Wednesday, Shuttleworth said some 150 regular volunteer coders are involved with Ubuntu, compared to the 20 full-time Canonical developers. On the other hand, shifting to a long-term support framework means Canonical must do some serious growing, since according to Shuttleworth, the bulk of the support will necessarily be picked up by Canonical itself.
We will be very interested to see how this relationship is maintained. As commercial vendors move into the enterprise arena (Red Hat and SUSE come to mind), they have struggled to keep in touch with their vibrant developer communities. (Though the openSUSE Project seems to be faring better than the Fedora Project in terms of community strength.)
We posed this scenario to Shuttleworth, who was resistant to a similar fate befalling Canonical. He cited the main difference between Canonical and the other commercial vendors' approaches as being in the core revenue model. Red Hat, SUSE, Mandriva, and the like depend on licensing and support fees for revenue. Canonical, on the other hand, will depend solely on support for revenue. Which, Shuttleworth explained, means Canonical will continue to rely on the community as a development and design resource. Therefore, he added, Canonical will strive to keep that relationship very strong.
In talking with Shuttleworth, it was hard not to get the sense that 6.06 LTS is a bit of a trial balloon for Canonical and the rest of the Ubuntu community. Shuttleworth emphasized it will wait at least a year and a half to see if another release of Ubuntu will receive the LTS designation. Which means the earliest we would see the next LTS version of Ubuntu is 7.10, and even that's not for sure. If Ubuntu is not well-received in the enterprise, we may not see a release like this again, and at worst Canonical loses face while continuing to focus on the desktop aspects of Ubuntu that have made it so popular.
We like the "don't put all of your eggs into one basket" approach, but we will be surprised if the caution proves necessary.
Ubuntu is one sharp distro now, and there are plans to release custom "flavors" of Ubuntu that will feature fully configured stacks that will allow users to commoditize Ubuntu for the tasks they need. In other words, if you need a mail server, you can choose that option at installation, and at the end of the install, poof! You will have a ready-to-run mail server. 6.06 already has this option, with an installation scheme as a fully configured LAMP server; when the other stacks are ready, it does not take a big leap of imagination to see Ubuntu take off fast.
» As mentioned previously, among the platforms that will support Dapper Drake is Sun's UltraSPARC T1 processor. The full Ubuntu stack will be available, and enterprises will be able to pull the OS across their T1000 and T2000 infrastructures and on to desktops, Shuttleworth, told Roundup
Shuttleworth emphasized that it was the Ubuntu community that chose UltraSPARC, not parent company Canonical. Still, we have no doubt that both parties have much to gain much from the deal. This is, after all, Sun's first supported Linux, and there is more opportunity to
strong arm mold Canonical than, say Red Hat or Novell. Not to mention the acquisition possibilities. Because you know, it's quicker to buy a community than to build one.
Not that Canonical is without ambition. Shuttleworth told Roundup that the partnership, "moves us one step closer to being an enterprise data center player." No doubt
» The other news to come from Sun this week was mostly along the lines of damage control to be filed under, as if there was ever any doubt.
Sun late Wednesday announced plans to cut headcount by as much as 5,000, which translates into a 13 percent of the company's current worldwide headcount. While we knew the real-estate consolidation, wouldn't be the be-all end-all, we were a bit surprised by the blatant about-face on CEO Jonathan Schwartz's part.
Schwartz offered a soothing balm on what we can only assume was a fait accompli, and some would argue, reason for his ascendence the the cushy corner office. We're sure all 37,000 employees are comforted by this as they wait to see whether they're getting a pink slip: "At the outset, I know these changes will be tough for many employees, but I'm also convinced they'll yield a more valuable company for customers, shareholders and our remaining employees, one that's leaner and more efficient.
Since we're picking apart Schwartz's blog, we'll add that we're not sure what to make of this, line, "Our industry is littered with companies that try to be all things to all people. That's not Sun."
Revisionist history, anyone?
» Debian users take note. Security support for Debian GNU/Linux 3.0, alias "woody," will be cut off at the end of the month. On June 30, the Debian project will turn off support for the four-year-old operating system.
Security updates for this release will be distributed via security.debian.org until the end of June. Older updates will remain available on security.debian.org until December 2006.
The current version is Debian GNU/Linux 3.1, alias "sarge." It has been out since early June 2005. Debian generally provides users with a one-year time frame to upgrade their old installations to the current stable release.
The clock is about to run out.
» Mac fans rejoice. Or maybe not. Microsoft plans to release a Mac-specific keyboard and mouse. The Wireless Desktop for Mac (WDM) is is scheduled to ship later this summer for a suggested price just shy of $100.
WDM will be the first Mac-specific desktop product from Microsoft, and it will be the first keyboard from the company to not include the Windows Start button. The keyboard layout is consistent with keyboards designed for the Macintosh and is compatible with Apple's latest Intel-based Macs as well as older PowerPC models.
Can Windows on the Mac be far behind?
» Picasa fans running Linux got a surprise treat late last week when Google announced a Linux version of its photo management tool. Picasa for Linux has been tested and runs well on Debian, Red Hat, and Mandriva Linux. The functionality is comparable to the Windows version of the product, minus a few features.
Picasa was founded in 2001; Google purchased it in July of 2004, and it is in wide use in Windows land. Google made a public commitment to begin porting it to Linux about a year ago.
Picasa is software that enables users to easily find, edit, and share the pictures on their PCs. Every time it is opened, it automatically locates all of the user's pictures. It sorts them into visual albums organized by date and gives them recognizable folder names. Albums and photos can be dragged and dropped and rearranged. In all, a nifty tool.
Like many Google releases, Picasa for Linux is available as a lab release. Final tweaks and bug fixes are expected to be out soon.
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