If Ubuntu Linux is to prove truly competitive in the OpenStack cloud and Big Data worlds, it needs to run on more than x86 hardware. And that's what Canonical achieved this month, with the announcement of full support for IBM POWER8 machines on Ubuntu Cloud and Ubuntu Server.

POWER8 is IBM's current answer to Intel's dominance of the PC and server processor market. Well-suited for Big Data applications and already widely used by cloud giants including Google (GOOG), servers running POWER8 hardware are poised to become an increasingly important part of the enterprise computing market.

Canonical first demonstrated Ubuntu running on POWER8 servers back in May, and announced their official general availability earlier this month. In pursuing the POWER8 market, the company not only made the core Ubuntu operating system compatible with IBM's chips, but also released POWER8 versions of the complete software archives for the Ubuntu Cloud and Ubuntu Server platforms.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux are also now compatible with POWER8, so to a certain extent, Canonical's keenness for ensuring broad compatibility between the hardware platform and Ubuntu is simply about remaining competitive against other open source server and cloud operating systems.

But by building the entire Ubuntu software repositories for POWER8, Canonical is also positioning itself to hold on to its lead within the OpenStack market—as well as to develop new strengths in the evolving Big Data world. In particular, the company has mentioned working with IBM over this summer on Hadoop and ElasticSearch for POWER8-based Ubuntu deployments.