Canonical is marching forward with an Ubuntu support strategy that blends channel partners (VARs and integrators) with Canonical's own Ubuntu hand-holding in large enterprises. Here's a look at Canonical's efforts so far.

For large enterprises, Canonical this week announced Premium Service Engineer (PSE) -- a single point of contact for Canonical's large customers. Canonical claims the PSE strategy will enable a faster response time and faster issue resolution. PSEs have access to all levels of support, including Canonical's platform engineers."

According to Canonical's web site, the PSE offering includes:
  • Ubuntu expert
  • Regular contact - bi-weekly, or as per customer requirements
  • Multi-vendor co-ordination
  • Deployment planning
  • Service review – twice yearly review
  • Knowledgebase access
  • On-site visit - once yearly
  • Skills training – 2 training course credits
At the same time, Canonical continues to train channel partners, integrators and IT support personnel on Ubuntu Server Edition and the other Ubuntu platform offerings.

History Lessons

Microsoft made similar moves in the 1990s to build out the Windows NT Server support network -- blending channel partners for small and midsize business support with Microsoft's own expertise for large enterprise support.

Still, there's one piece missing from Canonical's support puzzle: During Windows NT's early days, Microsoft wisely partnered up with Accenture, Hewlett-Packard and other big-name integrators to handle more and more enterprise support issues. Microsoft also partnered with Computer Associates and other IT administration software providers to improve Windows management.

Learning From Red Hat?

Meanwhile, Canonical may want to study recent support efforts from Red Hat.

Earlier this week I visited the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), a major Red Hat customer. CME officials told me their early experience with Red Hat (2002 or so) wasn't so pleasant because Red Hat lacked senior-level support experts who were familiar with enterprise issues. But since that time, the CME officials said, Red Hat has "grown up" and really started to understand enterprise latency and other issues.

Here and Now

I suspect Canonical will go through similar growing pains over the next few years. And gradually, I'd look for Canonical to partner with midsize and large integrators to handle support challenges.

In the meantime, Canonical has wisely put a customer front-and-center to talk about the value of PSE services. According to a prepared statement from Antonio José Sáenz, CTO of Isotrol:
"Having a Premium Service Engineer has been vital to getting the level of support we require to improve our operational infrastructure. As we are involved in the delivery of many open-source projects and ourselves operate a large Ubuntu and Debian server and desktop environment, being able to rely on a dedicated Ubuntu expert from Canonical reduces the pressure of supporting high-profile open-source projects externally and internally."
Isotrol is an Ubuntu silver partner specializing in engineering, consultancy, information systems and technological support services, in three activity sectors: energy, industry and the environment, together with the government sector, according to Canonical's web site.

I wasn't able to track down pricing for Canonical's PSE offering. But we'll continue to watch this effort closely to see if more customers sign up, and we'll be sure to report on their early experiences with PSE services.

Follow WorksWithU via Identi.ca, Twitter and RSS (available now) and our newsletter (coming soon).