2c about the development of ubuntu

Stephan Hermann sh at sourcecode.de
Mon Jan 2 13:54:49 GMT 2006

Hi Udo,

On Sunday 01 January 2006 22:25, Robos wrote:
> On Sun, 01.01.06, Stephan Hermann <sh at sourcecode.de> wrote:
> > [...]

> Is it me or is there a certain shift from "linux for human beings" to
> "linux for the corporate environment - free!". I would think that already
> enough companies cater for the server side of linux: ibm in conjunction
> with ..., novell and such that in that area there are enough players. 

Well, I would comment this with "Linux is Choice" and there is never enough of 
choice :) And, seriously, SysAdmins are as well Human Beings. Sometimes this 
human nature can be hide, but after 10-12 hours of work, the SysAdmin becomes 
again human.

On the other hand, you need to have two or more different views about 
OS/Software business. Especially in the Ubuntu environment.

First of all, don't think about Ubuntu being a "commercial OS". It's not, it 
will never be, because Ubuntu belongs to the "Ubuntu Foundation".
Second, thinking about the "Sponsor", yes, I know, it's quite sensational and 
suprising that someone like a SelfMadeMan, e.g. as Mark, is going on his 
adventure tour and spending a lot of money towards this distribution. But 
nevertheless, his money is not growing on a tree (as far as I know ;)) so he 
has to ensure, that his money he invests will give him as well a return. To 
do this, it's good to know that there is a company or two or three, that is 
doing this purpose. 
Canonical is paying the devs, is paying the wonderful, free for the users, 
shipit cds. But please be mature enough to think about a revenue stream. 
Thinking about that, it's quite fair, that Canonical can earn money with this 
free software, the same way as RedHat or Novell or Mandriva is earning money 
with Free Software.

So, on one side, you have the "normal user" which is ordering shipit cds or 
downloads the iso, burn it, and install it on their private systems as 
desktop or as server on their rootserver or as fileserver in their locale 
private network. 
Those users are ensured to have at least a possibilty to have a 3 years 
lifetime support for their desktop or 5 years support for their server base. 
Support means here, that they're able to update from Dapper to each new 
release in the coming future in the 3 or 5 years timeframe.

On the other side, we have the "business user", which wants to have commercial 
support for the OS and/or software he/she installs. The commercial support 
comes from a Canonical support partner company for the OS, and from different 
software vendors for their business software (e.g. SAP, Oracle, IBM, etc. you 
name it).
For a software vendor it is quite important, that they certify a special 
release of the OS, so Canonical itself gives them the possibilty to do so, 
because Canonical is paying for the "work to have the OS supported over a 
long period of time" (and believe me, 3/5 years is quite a long time in our 
OSS world).

So, do we have a switch from "linux for human beings" to "linux for the 
corporate environment - free!"? 
For me no, because everyone human being is participating, and Canonical itself 
can earn the money, to invest again into making Ubuntu the better choice of a 
Linux distribution. But in contrary to RedHat or Novell/SuSE, Canonical is 
not earning the money with selling a special "Brand of the Community 
OS" (RHEL or Novell/SuSE EL). 

> Like 
> I said, and microsoft said, the licensing cost is - for a company -
> neglectable to the cost of support and the cost of e.g. oracle.

To be honest, if you have to care about < 50 servers/workstations those costs 
are not neglectable, because the company is not as big as e.g. a company 
which runs >100 servers/workstations. Yes, yes I know, MS Select contracts 
are there, but those costs are only payable if you think about companies with 
more then >500 employees, but even those costs are reoccuring and for me as 
well not neglectable.

Oracle is again different, you have different license models, different ways 
how to see the work of Oracle Software. But even those costs are not 
But yes, seeing support costs for MS or Oracle or RH are much higher then 
sometimes buying the software. But at a large scale, you don't buy the 
software anymore, you license the software on Number of CPUs base.

> What I see is this: canonical can more easily make support contracts with
> companies about servers at the moment - BECAUSE "linux isn't ready for the
> desktop". That was - at least I understood it like this - what ubuntu
> wanted to do. 

To be honest, Linux is ready for desktop since 2000, that's what I said during 
my RH brainwashing at RH HQ in 2001, and that is what I am thinking since 
1993. It's a matter of fact, that many people were frightend about "Unix on a 
Workstation", but in some areas, you will always see Unix on Workstations 
with ugly CDE or ugly MWM (that's my private opinion). Since GNOME2 and 
KDE2/3 Unix (in common) and Linux as special flavour of a Unix like OS is 
ready for the Desktop.

But because their was no one who made this clear, who ran a "loud noise 
marketing and PR campaign, nobody wanted to see this fact. 
But since "Warty" (2004) and most likely "Hoary" (2005) the world came to the 
conclusion "Wow, their is this Ubuntu OS and it 'just works' on my 
workstation". Well, the Linux World could have this earlier, but neither 
RedHat/SuSE was able to promote this (or they didn't want that) neither 
Slackware/Debian/Gentoo was able to establish this feeling. 

And now comes this "SpaceCowboy from South Africa" and is doing it. He 
collects a bunch of good OSS developers, is paying them through a software 
company he founded, and he is pushing the slogan "Linux for Human Beings", 
forcing anybody to listen to the drums, which are spreading the news. (BTW, 
did you ever see an advertisement of Ubuntu in the usual places? No?!)

Actually, Mark is doing a great job with this idea, and he has all the respect 
I can give a man/woman doing this. But even then, he or his company has all 
the rights to earn money with supporting the "corporate users" and he has to 
do it, because without Canonicals work and efford, Linux (speaking not about 
the kernel but about a complete distribution) will stay only as a server OS 
choice, and will not be ready for the Desktop in the next 20 years.

And you know why? Because many of the clients for special software will always 
run only on Windows, and that won't change, if nobody is pushing it. 
Thinking about Novell/SuSE. Please think about, where Novell came from...and 
their favourite choice is still Windows. SuSE Linux was only a way away from 
their old Novell Server OS, which is old and obsolete since 100 years. 
Thinking about RedHat, even they play a role in not pushing Linux to the 
Desktops. Because they don't want, because the client software for e.g. 
SAP/Oracle/you name it is running on, take a guess, yes, right, Windows.

> Make linux more userfriendly to the human behind the machine 
> on his desk. THEN companies will approach canonical about support contracts
> for linux on the desktop. 

No. You will gain more "support contracts" if you are forcing the media to 
push a word. WIthout PR or marketing like MS or RH is doing you can forget 
about being a first class workstation OS. 
But for this, you need a first class, well supported, operating system, with a 
lot of supported killer app software. And secondly you need to make sure, 
that the software vendors can trust you.

> Fewer, in smaller volume, but _that_ was what I 
> understood Mark was spending his money on. 

I think we don't have to care about where and why Mark is spending his money. 
It's his business, and he can decide whatever he wants, how he is spending 
his money. I could understand, when he tells anyone tomorrow, that is retires 
from any business he runs, and is going back to the ISS space station or is 
moving his house on top of the Mount Everest. 
More important is, that there is a company which invests money and resources 
into software which you as a software or hardware vendor can trust and that 
there is a company which invests money and resources into software where you 
as user can trust, too.

> Surely ubuntu will amortize 
> itself faster with more focus on the server - but was that the intent? 

This is not correct. Please have in mind, that most of the work on OSS is done 
by people like you or me, who don't get any money from anyone working on OSS.
So, in contrary to e.g. MS, who has a lot of developers on the paylist, 
running an OSS company like RedHat or SuSE is always cheaper then running a 
company like MS. But the revenue streams are quite different. That's why RH 
and Novell/SuSE switched to Community Driven development. To increase their 
revenue stream. Less people to pay, more money to come, while selling 
Enterprise Linux Disitributions, which are most of the time developed by 

Thinking about Canonical, this is quite different. Canonical will never sell 
Ubuntu (in this form as we know it today) neither is Canonical increasing 
their revenue stream with selling Enterprise Linux Boxes. 
There is no such thing as Enterprise Ubuntu. There is only Ubuntu (and their 
flavours like Kubuntu/Edubuntu/XFCE Ubuntu (TBD)) and a company who is giving 
support to other companies.

> From 
> what I read in Mark's remarks about dapper drake he wants it to go head on
> against vista - not windows server 2000something. I think there is this
> notion about "linux not ready for the desktop" (I run it solely, on lots of
> machines) _because_ nobody is doing something about this. I thought ubuntu
> was. Am   I   wrong?

Well, Windows 2000something is obsolete, when Vista will hit the market. So 
Ubuntu has to fight on the Server market against Vista, and, this is a bigger 
problem, as well against Vista on the Desktop.

And yes, Canonical pays a lot of people, who are doing a lot of work for 
Ubuntu to make it better, and it doesn't matter if it's on the Desktop or on 
the Server. 

And yes, Ubuntu has a lot of community members who are doing a lot more work 
Ubuntu to make it better on the Desktop and on the Server.


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