Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind the Ubuntu Linux project, has a new CEO this week. Jane Silber, the former chief operating officer of the company, has now officially taken the reins from Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth -- and is already talking up what's ahead for the popular Linux distribution.
In mid-December, Canonical announced that Shuttleworth would be shifting roles at the company he started to better deal with technical and community issues within Ubuntu.
The change comes at a critical time for Ubuntu as a new long-term support release, codenamed the Lucid Lynx, is set to debut next month. The new release will be accompanied by new partnerships and certification for the Linux distro as well as a new brand and logo.
While a lot is happening at Canonical, Silber does not see the change in CEO as marking a dramatic shift in Ubuntu's direction.
"So far, it has been a pretty smooth transition," Silber told InternetNews.com. "Over the last three months, Mark Shuttleworth and I have continued to do many of the things that we've done together, and I've additionally started to pick up more of his responsibilities as he has transitioned to focus more on some of the product design and strategy areas."
Silber added that one of her big focus areas has been in recruiting staff. Among those that Canonical has added in recent months is former Alfresco executive and well-known blogger Matt Assay. Asay is taking over Silber's former role as COO of Canonical.
In terms of how her role at Canonical has changed, Silber offered a few observations. She noted that as COO, she always focused on the core operational processes and budgeting and on making sure that the company has a system in place to execute efficiently.
"Now I'm more directly responsible for actually ensuring that we execute and reach our goals," Silber said. "My appointment isn't really about a new vision for Canonical. It's more a maturing process of Canonical as a business as we enter a new phase, focusing on executing on business goals, strategies and community commitments that we've had all along."
Ubuntu Lucid Lynx Ahead
The first big Ubuntu launch with Silber as the helm is the upcoming Lucid Lynx Ubuntu 10.04 release, set for April 29.
"Every Ubuntu release is important release for us, but 10.04 is an LTS long-term support release, and that's a very significant release for us in the enterprise space," Silber said.
Typical Ubuntu releases come out every six months and have 18 months of support. Ubuntu LTS releases, however, come out every two years and provide three years of support on Ubuntu Desktop, and five years on Ubuntu Server.
The previous Ubuntu 9.10 release, codenamed the Karmic Koala, came out in October and was a regular, non-LTS release. The last Ubuntu LTS release was the 8.04 release, codenamed the Hardy Heron, made its debut in April 2008.
"In this 10.04 release, we are focusing more heavily on the cloud and ISV certification," Silber said. "I do expect that we will be having announcements in coming months in terms of ISVs and OEMs lining up behind the 10.04 release. It's something we've done well before, but our last LTS was two years ago and Ubuntu's acceptance as a server operating system has grown dramatically in those two years."
Silber added that Ubuntu to date has had a strong concentration on the cloud that will continue to ramp up over time as a key opportunity for its server release. For instance, with 10.04 in particular, the Ubuntu project has aimed to position itself as the best operating system for serving as both a guest on a public cloud as well a host to other guests.
The Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope release marked the first preview of Ubuntu's Enterprise Cloud, which further expanded with the 9.10 release.
Though plenty of rival operating systems are focusing heavily on the cloud, Silber sees a growing market for Ubuntu.
"I see it as a growing space particularly on the server side right now," Silber said. "Cloud is clearly the opportunity that lots of people are looking at and I don't see that as displacing or taking share from someone else. I think there is growth there."
Ubuntu Branding Change
As part of the Ubuntu 10.04 rollout, Ubuntu will also be updating its brand with a revised logo. Silber noted that the branding change is not related to the switch in chief executives, since the change in branding has been under discussion for more then six months. She added that the Ubuntu brand is powerful, but the consensus is that it was time to update it.
"The original branding was done five years ago and it still holds true," Silber said. "But we felt that we could do better and that there was a need to freshen it up. We believe that the new brand looks crisper, more precise, and is more professional and it really reflects the maturing that has happened in Ubuntu as a project."