According to Canonical VP Malcolm Yates, the virtual appliance strategy will allow Canonical and its ISVs (independent software vendors) to develop software bundles that are easily installed and configured -- with little or no need for integrators to master key hardware configuration steps.
The reason: A virtualization software layer will sit between server hardware and the operating system/applications. As a result, the virtualization layer will handle much of the hardware configuration issues, while VARs and integrators navigate a few simple steps to get Ubuntu Server and specific applications up-and-running.
Truth be told, The VAR Guy misspoke about Canonical's appliance strategy a few weeks ago. He heard rumblings about the effort in July at OSCON, and assumed the initiative involved hardware appliances.
Instead, the strategy involves integrated application stacks that ride atop virtualization software. Those virtualized applications can run on traditional hardware servers or specialized hardware appliances.
Canonical appears to be working closely with Openbravo on the virtualized server appliance effort, with more ISVs to follow soon. If Canonical gains a critical mass of developers to back the initiative, Canonical could have an easier time attracting server hardware makers to Ubuntu.
So far, Sun Microsystems is the only major server vendor to aggressively back Ubuntu Server.