ubuntu_serverWhen we launched WorksWithU in 2008, I strongly believed Canonical needed to build strong server hardware partnerships with Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard. But as I heard more about Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) in 2009, I realized Ubuntu in 2010 may find a back door into the server market. Here's why.

First, let me set expectations: I still think it's important for Canonical to work with hardware markers on Ubuntu Server Edition. Pre-install deals and bundling deals would be great. Fingers crossed, maybe we'll see some deals around the time of Ubuntu Server Edition 10.04's scheduled April 2010 launch.

But if server hardware relationships don't materialize I won't press the panic button. The reason: I think Canonical's cloud strategy -- built around Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud -- represents a back door into the server market.

As you'll recall: Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud is built upon Eucalyptus. And the Canonical-Eucalyptus relationship seems to be blossoming. Oh, and Hewlett-Packard is now listed as Eucalyptus business partner -- potentially connecting the dots between HP and Ubuntu Server Edition.

Please note: I'm stating that UEC is gaining mind share. That's different from market share. Within Ubuntu circles, developers are talking up UEC. Canonical has launched a cloud training course to get IT administrators up to speed on UEC. And bloggers are sharing quick UEC information to help users get started.

But where are the corporate UEC deployments? It's still early in the UEC game. I'm hearing from more and more colleges and universities that are testing UEC. In particular, I'm trying to catch up with a few key sources at Auburn University.

As soon as I have more to share I'll post it here. In the meantime, I wonder: Does the cloud mitigate Canonical's urgent need to rally server hardware makers around Ubuntu?