Canonical has launched Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Services, an effort to help customers build and support private clouds. The announcement, leveraging Ubuntu Server Edition, caught The VAR Guy's attention for two key reasons.

First, cloud computing seems to be Canonical's best chance to accelerate Ubuntu Server Edition deployments. Second, The VAR Guy wonders if Canonical will find a way to pull partners -- integrators, managed service providers and VARs -- into this private enterprise cloud strategy.

Server Challenges, Cloud Opportunities

As The VAR Guy has noted multiple times, Canonical is working overtime to build Ubuntu Server Edition relationships with hardware vendors (Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lenovo, etc.) and major ISVs (independent software vendors). So far those efforts are yielding mixed results. Just last week, Dell insiders said they had no plans to offer Ubuntu Server Edition on Dell PowerEdge servers.

Cloud computing potentially allows Canonical to circumvent the server pre-load debate, injecting Ubuntu Server Edition directly into multiple cloud opportunities -- including Amazon Web Services, Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud and now private clouds.

To rewind a bit, Canonical launched a technical preview of Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC), an open-source system that enables organizations to build their own clouds that match the interface of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, according to Canonical. UEC is now available as part of the Ubuntu Server Edition technology stack.

Fast forward to the present. Canonical says:

"By creating private clouds with UEC, organizations can optimize server use and increase data-centre efficiencies, while lowering costs and providing end users with self-service IT. Ubuntu is the first Linux distribution to provide such a system and now Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Services from Canonical help businesses build these environments with optimal efficiency."

But here's the challenge: Customers don't buy cloud operating systems. They embrace cloud services to host specific applications (storage, backup/recovery, database, ERP, email, etc.). So, promoting Ubuntu for private clouds is only the start. Canonical needs to promote reliable ISV software stacks for Ubuntu in the cloud.

A case in point: Red Hat is now certifying cloud partners for their ability to support both Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss middleware. Smart move.

Where Are the VARs?

Meanwhile, Canonical also needs to recruit and train more channel partners.

Already, VARs like OpenBI and Levementum have launched open source ERP, CRM and Business Intelligence applications into Amazon's cloud. Yes, those VARs are profiting today from cloud computing. Canonical needs partners like that to help embrace and evangelize Ubuntu Server Edition.

To Canonical's credit, the company has clearly articulated pricing and availability for Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Services.

Yearly pricing for entry-level support for five physical servers and up to 25 virtual Ubuntu servers is $4,750 for 9x5 standard support and $17,500 for 24x7 advanced support. Additional support packs are available per physical server and per ten virtual servers for $1,250 p.a. for standard support and $3,000 p.a. for advanced.

But where's the pricing and margin information for VARs and resellers? There's nothing wrong with selling direct to end-customers. But in order to get the word out faster, Canonical needs partners.

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