Turnkey Linux Launches 12 Ubuntu Server Edition AppliancesUbuntu is converging quickly with cloud services. A prime example: Turnkey Linux is launching 12 Ubuntu Server Edition software appliances that users can deploy in various cloud services. The news comes only a few weeks after Canonical said Ubuntu 9.10 will leap into Amazon.com's cloud. I'm intrigued, but I wonder if customers will join the Ubuntu cloud party.

First, a little background on Turnkey Linux. According to a press release from the organization:
The [Ubuntu software appliance] project was jump-started just 6 months ago with the timely goal of helping organizations and enterprising individuals do more with less by taking full advantage of software appliances to reduce unnecessary friction and leverage cost-effective on-demand infrastructure (i.e., cloud deployment).
Initial server appliances from Turnkey Linux support the LAMP stack, Ruby on Rails, Drupal CMS, Joomla CMS, MediaWiki, Django framework, MySQL and PostgreSQL database engines, and LAPP. Appliances for Apache Tomcat, Wordpress, Moodle, Movable Type and phpBB are currently under-going private testing before a public release, the press release adds.

Turnkey Linux: Questions and Answers

That all sounds very promising. But what is Turnkey Linux's financial strategy? I reached out to Liraz Siri, one of the project's founders, for answers. Here's what he had to say.

WorksWithU: How does Turnkey Linux expect to make money?

Siri: Look at this link. Stimulating development by hiring a dedicated team of developers and sponsoring open source bounties requires considerable funding, so we are starting to explore which open source-friendly business models could sustain the project financially and support it's long term health and viability.

Our best ideas involve providing premium services that will help organizations do more with less by taking full advantage of software appliances to reduce unnecessary friction and leverage cost-effective on-demand infrastructure (I.e., cloud deployment). This should be especially relevant given the current economic condition.

One of the services we believe may provide the most value to patrons is the contract development of custom software appliances. We recently completed a successful private pilot and we are now seeking additional clients for a larger public pilot under unusually good terms (e.g., refunding unsatisfying results).

We're starting out by offering contract software appliance development services, but this is just be a stepping stone on the way to a more scalable, less labor intensive selection of premium offerings.

WorksWithU: Have you heard of JumpBox? They are moving apps into the Amazon cloud and I wondered if your strategies were similar?

Siri: Yes, on-demand (I.e., cloud) deployment is something we will definitely be supporting in the future. I think everyone understands this is going to be a major part in future IT infrastructure, due to the inherent costs advantage.

It's interesting you mention JumpBox because they were part of our inspiration for launching TurnKey Linux. We liked the idea, but we didn't like the restrictions placed on non-free appliances. There's a potential misalignment there with the user interests and we figured that
a more free open source project that managed to engage the community could be very interesting. Also we believe open source friendly business models can be profitable enough to allow people to make a good living without walling off that value into a proprietary space that prevents true collaboration in a community setting, which is really what open source is all about.

WorksWithU: And what about Amazon.com -- do you expect their cloud to be a primary platform for your appliances?

Siri: Most likely, but this space is evolving so fast I wouldn't be surprised if another offering came out from the sidelines and gave Amazon a run for their money, especially on the low-end where EC2 is less cost-effective compared to options such as slicehost.

Speaking of slicehost, I expect Rackspace's future cloud offerings to provide Amazon with some very interesting competition.

WorksWithU: Are you working with any particular cloud partners?

Siri: What's great about these cloud offerings is that most of them are very egalitarian. You give them a credit card, they give you an API, and off you go. The barriers to entry are very low and doesn't require any bandwidth from management. A garage startup with the right formula and a scalable business model can almost compete against a corporation on equal footing.

As to your question we are currently experimenting with both AWS and Rackspace's Slicehost service. Slicehost is currently quite a bit less flexible but the cost structure for low end appliances is significantly better. It depends on your usage scenarios.

Closing Thoughts

I'm certainly intrigued by Ubuntu and software appliances heading into the cloud. Canonical started telling me a bit about their software appliance strategy during LinuxWorld Expo in mid-2008. But so far, those efforts have been slow to materialize.

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