ubuntu-logoCanonical continues to build the Ubuntu channel partner program. Although the effort isn't generating headlines yet, solutions providers can measure Canonical's progress by keeping their eyes on four key Ubuntu partners. Here they are.

First up are two household names: Amazon.com and Dell.

1. Amazon.com: Ubuntu 9.10, scheduled for an October 2009 arrival, will push far deeper into cloud computing. But in the meantime, Amazon and Canonical are quick to note that Ubuntu Server Edition for Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is available now.

Canonical's cloud computing push gives Ubuntu a back door into the server market, where traditional pre-load deals with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM can be tricky to develop (although Canonical and HP recently certified Ubuntu 9.04 on selected HP ProLiant servers).

2. Dell: Sure, niche PC suppliers like System76 and ZaReason deserve major applause for shipping quality Ubuntu systems. But Dell's decision to offer Ubuntu on selected desktops and laptops in mid-2007 was a tipping point for Canonical's move into mainstream computing.

More recently, Dell has added Ubuntu Netbooks to its product mix.

Is Dell a perfect Ubuntu partner? Certainly not. International readers often complain to The VAR Guy that Dell Ubuntu systems are not available in their countries.

Also, Dell typically waits considerable time before pre-loading the most current Ubuntu release on its systems. As of June 22 2009, Dell was still shipping Ubuntu 8.04 (released in April 2008) rather than Ubuntu 9.04 (April 2009 debut). The reason: Dell likes to test, test, test Ubuntu.

Still, Dell is a big name -- and a big reason why Ubuntu has gained momentum with thousands of consumers and small businesses, The VAR Guy believes. Our resident blogger is visiting Dell on June 26 and will seek an update on Dell's Ubuntu strategy.

Now, Two Names You Don't Necessarily Know

Meanwhile, Canonical is quietly striving to bolster training, education and certification around Ubuntu Server Edition, Ubuntu Desktop Edition and related Canonical services (such as Landscape).

That's where (3) Bridge Education and (4) Fast Lane enter the picture. The companies operate IT training and education centers that essentially blanket North America, notes Fast Lane's Marc Alumbaugh.

Not by coincidence, Canonical knows it needs to train thousands of folks in order to accelerate Ubuntu's momentum in the IT channel and within businesses. A case in point: Red Hat has trained nearly 40,000 IT pros on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. And many of those pros will converge on the Red Hat Summit in Chicago this September 2009.

Meanwhile, Canonical needs to walk before it can run in the IT channel. That's where new training initiatives, launched in May 2009, enter the picture. Fast Lane's Alumbaugh says he and Bridge Education representatives are on the phone regularly with Billy Cina, Canonical’s training programmes manager. Their discussions focus on further accelerating Ubuntu training.

You can bet The VAR Guy is trying to listen in.

Regardless, Bridge Education and Fast Lane could emerge as two of Canonical's most important channel partners going forward.

The VAR Guy covers channel partner programs on his own site. Follow WorksWithU via Identi.ca, Twitter and RSS (available now) and our newsletter (coming soon).