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A Higher Linux League For Ubuntu?

For years, Red Hat and SUSE have dominated the enterprise Linux distribution space. But that duopoly may be in trouble, because the Debian-based GNU/Linux-derived Ubuntu has a little help from Big Blue.

IBM DB2 Lab Software engineers validated Ubuntu as part of the DB2 for Linux Validation program. The distro said it successfully completed the process and now carries the "Ready for IBM DB2 Software for Linux" mark. This means "IBM will fully support businesses who choose to run DB2 UDB on Ubuntu, an essential offering for mission-critical databases and applications."

The IBM certification is the first major certification of its type for Ubuntu, which is sponsored by Canonical.

"With the DB2 certification we can now see that business users will start to look at using Ubuntu for their more critical applications," Malcolm Yates, alliances and partner manager at Canonical, told internetnews.com.

An IBM spokesperson was not available by press time for comment.

Red Monk analyst Steven O'Grady considers the DB2 certification significant for both IBM and Ubuntu, which recently released its latest distro.

"From an IBM perspective, certification of a 'free' and phenomenally popular distro such as Ubuntu offers both new market opportunities as well as the ability to sell to customers running Ubuntu," O'Grady told internetnews.com. "For Ubuntu, it's a major application to add to their portfolio of supported applications, and it could encourage other ISVs to give them a look."

In fact, getting other ISVs to take a look is precisely the plan.

"We have started talking with several database vendors, as well as other application vendors, and just as importantly, hardware vendors," Canonical's Yates said.

The IBM certification may well be the foot in the enterprise door that Ubuntu needs.

"Although Red Hat and Novell command the bulk of the enterprise Linux market between them, there remain opportunities for less expensive distros in some environments," Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff commented.

That being the case, Red Hat and Novell SUSE have a significant advantage in that they both have many certifications and partnerships.

Haff said it is difficult to see Ubuntu -- or anyone else -- being able to put together a comparable list.

"But for situations where an organization can live without certifications except on a few pieces of mission-critical software like the database, it may work for someone like Ubuntu to just pick up a few pieces of software support here and there," Haff said.