RealTime IT News
Sun 'Fawns' Over Ubuntu
By Sean Michael Kerner
April 19, 2007

Ubuntu 7.04, codenamed Feisty Fawn, is set for its official release today. Along with advanced virtualization features, the release provides access to some of Sun Microsystems' Java platform technologies.

Sun and Canonical, Ubuntu's commercial sponsor, consider the Java platform technology inclusions as an important milestone in a larger effort of collaboration. Sun's Netbeans IDE, Glassfish Java Application Server, Java SE and Java DB 10.2 will all be available to Ubuntu Feisty Fawn users, but they won't be part of the core Ubuntu software repository.

"We see the Ubuntu developer community as a key constituency for a lot of the higher level Sun platform technology," Ian Murdock, chief operating platforms officer at Sun, told internetnews.com. "It's another step in a bigger relationship between Sun and Ubuntu, and, clearly, Sun is interested in reaching the Linux developer community."

Murdoch is no stranger to the Linux community, though he is new to Sun, having joined just a month ago. Murdock is best known as the founder of the Debian GNU/Linux project, which is the basis from which Ubuntu is derived.

Though Sun's Java platform technologies can work with other Linux distributions, they are not typically included as packages. Sun is working directly in partnership with Canonical to get the packaging down right for Ubuntu. It's an effort that has been under way since November.

The goal on the Java platforms side, though, is to actually get Sun's technologies into the main Ubuntu repository where they will be available by default to Ubuntu users. For the Fawn release, the Sun code exists in the alternative multi-verse repository.

"Multi-verse is not quite the core of Ubuntu, but it certainly means Ubuntu developers have easy access to those technologies," Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth told internetnews.com.

The roadblock to getting Sun's Java technologies into the main Ubuntu repositories, said Shuttleworth, is the open sourcing of Java. Once that task is completed, he expects that the Java Platform will be part of main.

The Sun Java components are only being packaged for the new Feisty Fawn release and are not being back-ported to Ubuntu's previous releases: Edgy Eft or the Dapper.

The Dapper release is the long-term supported release of Ubuntu as it will be supported for five years on the server and three years on the desktop. Feisty Fawn, which will only be supported for 18 months, is the first of many distributions Sun hopes to be part of.

"The goal here is ubiquity. You can't achieve ubiquity by targeting a single distro," Murdock said. "This is the first and from a developer perspective the most important but we certainly hope there will be more to come after this."

Beyond the Java components, the Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn release marks the introduction of Linux 2.6.20 and various backported bug fixes and features, including paravirt-ops," Ubuntu CTO Matt Zimmerman told internetnews.com.

Paravirt-ops is a para-virtualization interface for the Linux kernel that enables multiple hypervisors to hook directly into Linux. Officially paravirt-ops is not set to debut until the 2.6.21 Linux kernel which has not yet been released.

The effort to provide expansive virtualization in paravirt-ops was a collaborative one involving Red Hat, XenSource, VMware and IBM and first started in August 2006.

Though Sun and Ubuntu are getting closer on Java, the two apparently have not thought through getting closer on virtualization. Neither Sun nor Canonical spokespersons were able to comment on whether Ubuntu would support running Sun Solaris as a virtualized guest or whether Solaris would support running Ubuntu as a virtualized guest.

Ubuntu is one of the most-hyped Linux distributions currently in use, though it is unclear as to exactly how many people use it.

Red Hat's Fedora distribution has been very open about exposing its usage numbers which exceeded 2 million for the latest Fedora 6 release. Fedora Project leader Max Spevack has told internetnews.com that that Fedora is discussing expanding its Linux statistic efforts with other distributions, including Novell's OpenSUSE.

Apparently Ubuntu isn't involved.

"I haven't personally heard from them about this effort, and am not aware of them contacting others in the project -- though it's possible," Zimmerman said. "We only have estimates of the number of users we have, as it's difficult to do better than that while protecting the freedom and privacy of our users."