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Linux Vendors Head to the Cloud in Search of Cash

Is there a silver lining in the cloud for Linux vendors? This week, two of the largest Linux vendors each announced new initiatives to provide commercial services for cloud customers.

Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) is launching a new cloud certification program, while Canonical, the lead commercial vendor behind Ubuntu Linux, is launching paid support services for its cloud offerings.

Both efforts have the potential to help the Linux vendors generate revenues from the cloud as enterprise adoption of cloud technologies mount.

For Red Hat, the company has been offering Linux on Amazon EC2 for over a year, in an offering that had been classified as being in beta testing. With the new Red Hat Certified Cloud Provider programs, Red Hat has now certified its Amazon cloud service, which enables a number of key improvements, according to Mike Evans, vice president of corporate development at Red Hat.

For one thing, full production versions of Red Hat's products are now available to Amazon EC2 users as opposed to just beta offerings. Evans told InternetNews.com that as a result of the Amazon certification, users can run Red Hat subscriptions in their own IT environment, or to transfer them to be run at Amazon -- while receiving full support, compatibility and security updates. Red Hat customers also get the flexibility to move their subscriptions back and forth.

"In addition to end users being able to utilize Amazon more confidently and flexibly, a similar message will be sent to our thousands of ISV partners," Evans said. "The Certified Cloud Provider partners are the ones with technical and business partnerships with Red Hat. For ISVs, if their applications are certified on RHEL and/or JBoss, they have an easy path to make their own cloud offering with these Certified Cloud Providers."

Evans added that in his view, Cloud Providers and end customers want more cloud application choices. While operating systems, databases and application servers are a good start, the world wants more, and Red Hat wants to help enable more ISV applications.

"So, this program is centered on Cloud Providers, but is really a triangulation of the interests of end users, ISVs and Cloud Providers," Evans said, adding that the goal of the effort is "to increase the confidence and reduce barriers to using cloud more widely."

Ubuntu in the cloud

Canonical is also jumping into the commercial side of the cloud business by offering support services officially called Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Services

"The support and consultancy offering are specifically designed for cloud environments and give due consideration to both the underlying substrate -- Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud -- and providing support for any virtual machines running Ubuntu Server Edition," Simon Wardley, head of Canonical's cloud strategy, told InternetNews.com.

Ubuntu's cloud technology uses the Eucalyptus open source project as its base, starting with the recent Jaunty Ubuntu Linux release. Eucalyptus itself now also has its own set of commercial support services backing it up.

[cob:Special_Report]Wardley explained that Canonical provides the support through its own technical experts in the Global Support Services team. He added that Canonical and Eucalyptus have a relationship in place to provide additional technical expertise where and if necessary.

For the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Services, setup and configuration are key elements.

"Optimizing the environment based on the hardware in place is the most immediate way to make real the promised saving of cloud computing," Wardley said. "These services will be used in enterprise environments and any enterprise wants the reassurance of professional, ongoing support in this case from the code originators, Canonical."

Red Hat vs. Ubuntu

While both Red Hat and Canonical are offering cloud services, Canonical is not providing a certification program like Red Hat is for vendors. While Red Hat sees value in certification, Canonical does not.

"At this time, we believe there is limited user value for certifying a public cloud provider which has already delivered a considerable brand for operational excellence in public cloud provision," Wardley said. "We do believe there is considerable value in providing users with an open source system to build their own private clouds that match the de facto standard of Amazon's EC2 API."