Canonical's Ubuntu Server Edition is finally showing some ISV (independent software vendor) momentum. The latest two examples involve Openbravo and Alfresco. Here's the news and a bigger picture look at Canonical's attempt to compete against Windows Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell SUSE Linux on the server.

First, the news:  Openbravo ERP 2.50 Professional Subscription, built on top of Ubuntu Server Edition, is available now. The news comes one week after Alfresco Community Edition 3.2 became available from the Ubuntu software repositories.

Now the bigger picture: Canonical's overall business strategy includes multiple moves beyond Ubuntu Desktop Edition -- including server, cloud, storage (Ubuntu One) and systems management (Landscape) initiatives.

Words But Few Actions?

On the server front I was growing a little worried. The reason: In recent months it seemed as if Canonical's Ubuntu Server Edition ISV program had stalled.

During LinuxWorld 2008, ISVs like Alfresco, Openbravo and Unison Technologies Inc. vowed to support Canonical's server operating system. But actual applications for Ubuntu Server Edition were slow to materialize in late 2008 and early 2009.

Fast forward to the present and Canonical finally seems to be pushing server ISVs forward. One potential reason involves John Pugh, ISV channel sales manager at Canonical. Pugh caught my attention a few weeks ago with the Canonical-Alfresco announcement. And multiple sources say Pugh has been instrumental in Canonical's recent ISV moves -- with more news to come.

Also of note: The ISV relationships could help Canonical to attract channel partners. Both Alfresco and Openbravo landed on The Open Source 50, which tracks the IT channel's most promising open source partner programs.

Servers In the Cloud

Meanwhile, Canonical's server effort has gained momentum on other fronts -- including in the cloud. Canonical in July 2009 unveiled the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC)...
"an open-source system that enables organisations to build their own clouds that match the interface of Amazon EC2. UEC is now available as part of the Ubuntu Server Edition technology stack."
Also, Hewlett-Packard began certifying ProLiant servers to run Ubuntu Server Edition in June 2009.

Reality Check

I'm not suggesting that Ubuntu Server Edition is poised to become a powerhouse vs. Windows Server, Red Hat and Novell. More progress is required. For instane, Canonical must now work with Alfresco, Openbravo, Unison and other ISVs to promote server applications to customers and channel partners.

Unison, for instance, confirms support for Ubuntu but does not yet have any Ubuntu-Unison customer references to share. Plus, big-name ISVs (such as Oracle) have yet to embrace Ubuntu Server Edition.

Still, much of the anecdotal evidence above shows continued progress for Canonical's server effort.