It's one small step for Dell, and one big strategic win for Canonical's Ubuntu Linux cloud strategy. Specifically, Dell on March 24 said it would support Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) as an infrastructure solution. Apparently, Canonical and Dell have been developing this UEC relationship for more than six months. Here are the details and the implications for channel partners.

According to Mark Murphy, Global Alliances Director at Canonical:
Dell will offer a series of ‘blueprint’ configurations that have been optimised for different use cases and scale. These will include PowerEdge-C hardware, UEC software and full technical support – you will be able to buy these straight from Dell or you can use the ‘blueprints’ as a base to create your own bespoke solution.
Murphy's blog entry goes on to say:
Behind the scenes we’ve worked with Dell’s DCS team for over six months to test and validate the integration of the cloud stack on their new PowerEdge-C series.

Critical Timing

The expanded Dell-Canonical relationship arrives at a critical time for both Canonical and Eucalyptus -- the open source cloud platform upon which UEC is based.

Canonical has expanded its management team, transitioned the CEO title from Chairman Mark Shuttleworth to Jane Silber, and recruited Alfresco veteran Matt Asay as COO. Those three executives are busy strengthening Canonical's fledgling ISV and OEM relationships across the world.

At the same time, Canonical is working overtime to deliver Ubuntu 10.04, code-named Lucid Lynx. The upgrade, slated for April 2010 delivery, is a long term support (LTS) release. The LTS moniker means Canonical hopes more customers and ISVs will make a long-term commitment to the offering as well. Canonical has also been working hard on its channel partner program.

No doubt, Canonical has its hands full trying to push Ubuntu Linux beyond the desktop, notebook and netbook markets onto servers and into the cloud. So far, server OEM relationships haven't really developed much beyond small partners like System76 and ZaReason. HP, IBM and Sun have dabbled in Ubuntu Server Edition -- but Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell SUSE Linux continue to dominate most of the Linux server market.

At the same time, critics have questioned Dell's commitment to Ubuntu, because Ubuntu desktop options frequently disappear from Dell's U.S. website. By backing Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud, Dell answers its Ubuntu critics while also bolstering Canonical's server and cloud strategies.

The Other Big Winner: Eucalyptus

Meanwhile, the Dell-Canonical relationship also gives Eucalyptus a boost. Canonical's Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud software is based on Eucalyptus. And new Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos -- the former CEO of MySQL -- yesterday told that he's preparing a channel strategy for the company.

Of course, The VAR Guy has to sprinkle in the usual reality check: Even with Dell's backing, Canonical's server and cloud strategy faces an uphill battle. Red Hat has the most Linux ISVs (as far as The VAR Guy can tell...), Novell's SUSE Linux Appliance strategy is gaining momentum, and most corporate IT managers have yet to discover Ubuntu Server Edition, The VAR Guy suspects.

But Canonical deserves to celebrate the Dell win. It's significant.

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