ubuntuAs Microsoft gears up to launch Windows 7, Canonical and IBM have a message for channel partners and CIOs (chief information officers): Virtualized Ubuntu desktops, running on centralized Linux servers, provide lower TCO (total cost of ownership) and lower acquisition costs vs. traditional Windows desktops. Here's the scoop.

To be sure, The VAR Guy is always skeptical when vendors throw around TCO and ROI claims. It's pretty easy to find statistics that will back up just about any vendor claim or position. But the folks at Canonical and IBM -- leveraging a small virtualization partner called Virtual Bridges -- continue to march forward with a virtualized Ubuntu desktop strategy.

So far, that IBM-Canonical-Virtual Bridges strategy has achieved three key milestones:
  • December 2008: IBM discloses the initiative with Canonical and Virtual Bridges, introducing a per-user price point of $49.
  • May 2009: More than a dozen new VARs and integrators sign up to support Virtual Bridges' software.
  • July 2009: IBM, Virtual Bridges and Canonical introduce the latest version of their combined efforts.
Several VARs and managed service providers have climbed about the virtual Ubuntu desktop effort, which depends on Virtual Bridges' VERDE 2.0 software. True believers include Midas Networks, a managed service provider that evangelizes virtual desktops to customers.

Canonical's Man in the Middle

Also of note: Canonical's point person on the IBM relationship has plenty of experience dealing with Big Blue. Peter Woodward, Canonical's manager for the IBM global alliance, previously held IBM-centric partnership posts at Citrix Systems and Novell.

Not even Woodward suggests as mass-market movement from Windows XP and Vista to virtualized Ubuntu desktops. But he does expect the IBM-Canonical-Virtual Bridges relationship to start generating revenue within a few months.

"Microsoft is having another impending event," quips Woodward, referring to Windows 7's scheduled October 2009 arrival. "Traditionally that meant going out and buying a bigger and beefier machine." This time around, Canonical and IBM intend to educate CIOs and VARs about how virtual desktops (running on Linux servers) can save money, eliminate Windows and Office licensing fees, and eliminate security software fees.

"The message is resonating well in emerging markets and in Europe, particularly Western Europe," says Woodward. "Channel partners are also raising their hands with interest. You'll see us doing webinars and seminars to continue the education."

Hmmm. The VAR Guy isn't predicting a wholesale shift from Windows desktops to virtualized Ubuntu desktops running on centralized Linux servers. Still, IBM seems pretty darn serious about promoting its Lotus desktop software in tandem with Canonical and Virtual Bridges. And Canonical's Woodward has more than a decade experience building relationships with IBM... ...

This could get interesting.

Follow The VAR Guy via RSS; Facebook; Identi.ca; Twitter; and via his Newsletter; Webcasts and Resource Center.