Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system, will be releasing version 12.04 Long Term Support (LTS) enterprise edition of the OS next week. The Ubuntu 12.04 LTS release will be noteworthy both for its cloud and virtualization features and also because it's the first Ubuntu release that has broad certification on a series of HP ProLiant servers.
"This is a game-changing announcement," Chris Kenyon, VP of Sales and Business Development at Canonical, told InternetNews.com. "HP is adding Ubuntu to its global list of operating system partners, and we will be making sure that that the most popular models in the ProLiant range are all certified."
One of the key drivers for HP certifying Ubuntu 12.04 on HP server hardware is the cloud and, more specifically, OpenStack-based clouds. Both Canonical and HP are platinum members of the OpenStack project and both are basing their cloud initiatives on the open source cloud platform. HP's new cloud offering is in fact currently running OpenStack on top of Ubuntu.
Though enterprises have been running Ubuntu on top of HP hardware for years in some cases, certification does matter.
"There has always been a class of customers for whom formal certification by an OEM has not been a deciding factor," according to Kenyon, but "there's a much larger group of customers for whom it is very significant, so now they can buy HP hardware with confidence to deploy Ubuntu and know that they are fully covered."
From HP's perspective, the new hardware certification for Ubuntu is the formalization of work they have been doing with Canonical over the last several years. So now when hardware calls come in and someone is running Ubuntu, HP support will work to help direct users to Canonical as well as provide support on driver issues.
HP's relationship with Canonical, however, is still different than the ones it has with Red Hat and SUSE. Mark Semadeni, ProLiant Linux Business Manager at Hewlett-Packard, explained to InternetNews.com that with Red Hat and SUSE, HP has a full support situation.
"That means qualifying the operating system across our entire portfolio of ProLiant servers, and it means creating a service pack as well for those distributions," Semandeni said. "We always try and get our drivers into the upstream distribution, but the difference is sometimes that doesn't always work out seamlessly."
So for Red Hat and SUSE, HP creates an exception process whereby customers can get ProLiant drivers out-of-band. With Ubuntu that doesn't yet exist.
"With Ubuntu the big onus will be in getting the drivers into the distribution prior to the delivery," Semandeni said. "That's something we're committed too, but that's the difference."
How to Choose an Enterprise Linux Distro
Since HP now certifies Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu Linux operating systems, their salesforce and resellers could potentially direct customers to specific distributions for a given use-case. Semandeni explained that the customer dynamic is what typically determines which distribution will be used.
"For example, most enterprise customers always default to Red Hat," Semandeni said. "For hyper-scale and our public cloud customers they lean toward Ubuntu."
For tighter vertical-like running SAP applications, HP sees a lot of demand for SUSE. It all comes down to customer preference and workload dynamics, according to Semandeni.
"Right now, enterprise customers don't want to bet the farm on a company that may or may not be around in terms of Ubuntu, where they are still working toward profitability, versus Red Hat, which has just passed a billion in sales," Semandeni said. "It's all about the level of risk that customers are willing to take and the price they are willing to pay.