The new Ubuntu version, called Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (long term support) is the first to jump into the server market, as the open source operating system (OS) seeks to expand its audience. It will be available starting in June.
Ubuntu is a Linux distribution, which is a version of a Unix-like operating system that includes the Linux kernel plus any additional open source or proprietary software.
"In any release we always try to expand the stakeholders," said Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu and the company, Canonical Ltd., which sponsors it. "Our users are really concerned about free software. There is a tremendous amount of interest in Sparc in the free development community."
The new release of Ubuntu includes a dedicated server edition and is free to users with security updates, with server support available for five years. Users can also pay Canonical to get technical support on the Sparc-based systems.
For Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun, it means expanding its foothold in the Unix marketplace where it has shown recent growth, as well as displaying and pressing its recent allegiance to open source software, including Java and its own operating system, Solaris.
According to recent first-quarter market share reports, Sun has made headway in the Unix server market. It has a slight edge over IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co., but each has about 30% of the market.
"From our perspective, it gives customers the choice of what they really want," said Sunil Joshi, Sun vice president of design tools, performance and quality assurance. "It all comes together pretty nicely."
Joshi acknowledged that Sun's embrace of open source technology has likely made it more attractive to open source products like Linux and its distributions.
Michael CotÉ, analyst at Denver-based RedMonk, said that Ubuntu has been one of the favorite Linux distributions out there, and so it has already built a level of support that should allow it to carry to the server market. He said that end users, meaning system administrators in most cases, "now have a better chance of running the OS they want both at home and at their 95."
He added that it's mature of Sun to welcome Ubuntu on its servers, considering it already has its own open source operating system, Solaris. CotÉ said it means the company isn't afraid to give customers what they want.
More interesting, he said, was whether, and how, Sun would start to integrate Ubuntu and OpenSolaris, the open source project for Solaris.
"While I'm excited to see the two starting up a relationship with each other, I'm more looking forward to how the relationship between Sun and Ubuntu evolves than this initial announcement," he said. "For example, will DTrace be ported to Ubuntu? Will OpenSolaris pick up apt-get for package management? The near-term potential for cross-pollination between Ubuntu and OpenSolaris is the really interesting part of this announcement."
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer