Canonical Expands Ubuntu Linux Landscape

While there is a mad rush toward putting more IT resources in the cloud, not everything belongs in the cloud — just ask Ubuntu Linux vendor Canonical.

The Canonical Landscape Ubuntu systems management server is now moving in from the cloud with a new dedicated, on-site offering. Previously, the Landscape service was only available as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), cloud-based model. The new Landscape Dedicated Server expands the commercial support offerings available for Ubuntu Linux as Canonical ramps up its efforts to gain market share against rivals.

“Canonical’s Landscape Dedicated Server is a software appliance that is installed on the users’ hardware. Updates will be made available by download on an as-needed basis when major kernel/security patches become available,” Ken Drachnik, Landscape manager at Canonical, told “Of course, this points out one of the major differences between the Hosted edition and Dedicated edition — users will need to provide hardware and a trained resource to manage Landscape on-site.”

As opposed to Ubuntu Linux, which is freely available and open source, Landscape as a complete service is neither free nor open source. The Landscape client is open source and available on open source hosting site Launchpad, but the server code is proprietary.

Rival Linux distribution Red Hat (NYSE: RHT), meanwhile, is currently in the process of fully open sourcing its Red Hat Network Satellite product for Red Hat Linux systems management.

Drachnik noted that Canonical has had some discussions about open sourcing all of Landscape, but it’s not in the company’s near-term plans.

That’s partially because Canonical does not require Landscape users to also subscribe to support services for Ubuntu desktop or server operating systems.

“We provide Ubuntu and all the patches for free so we charge for the Landscape service, which automates the patching of servers,” Drachnik said. “Other Linux distros charge a subscription fee for access to patches, and in that business model, they can provide the software for free because their business model is predicated on charging for security updates.”

“Landscape is a service that provides additional value to the services offered by Canonical,” he added. “Many users choose to not have support contracts on their systems initially and just buy the Landscape service. There is no requirement that a system be under a support contract to use Landscape.”

There is, however a cost associated with Landscape as an on-site installation, which involves a support contract for the Landscape service itself.

Drachnik said that list pricing is $8,000 for the Landscape Dedicated Server, with an annual subscription cost of $150 per node. He added that installation for small systems can be done remotely or on-site, and is roughly $2,000. In addition, a support contract on the systems running Landscape is required, which lists for $2,750 per system for enterprise 24 x 7 coverage.

Cloud vs. on-site

The idea behind having a dedicated on site Landscape server is all about choice and control for the enterprise deployment, the company said, and there’s no difference between the two from a functionality standpoint.

“A single Landscape account can manage any Ubuntu instance — physical, virtual or cloud-based,” Drachnik said. “The Hosted and Dedicated Server architectures both offer this same functionality.”

“Today, Landscape can manage both your physical instances and Amazon EC2 instances from the same console window,” he added.

Though there may be no functional difference between the cloud and on-site Landscape servers, there have been some technical issues that Canonical has had to work through. Drachnik said that because Landscape has been a live service from Canonical for several years, the service is well tested.

“Landscape has been in beta testing with a number of customers — enterprises, Universities and ISPs — to exercise the product and help us understand how it will be used in a variety of environments,” Drachnik said. “Probably the most learning we have had is in understanding the various authentication mechanisms and password syntax these different users use internally.”

What’s next?

Today, Landscape is not integrated with large IT management solutions from IBM Tivoli or IBM, but that could change in the future.

“The ability to exchange data with these large network management applications is on our roadmap, and we have been in discussions with some of the suppliers to understand what kind of Web interface/API we would need to make that exchange as efficient as possible,” Drachnik said. “Look for this capability in the future as more and more large enterprises migrate systems to Ubuntu.”

While Canonical is now offering a new, on-site service, the future could also yield more cloud-based product initiatives as well.

“We are working on the next set of features now with an eye towards offering Landscape Dedicated Server as a product that ISPs can host and provide a service for their customers,” Drachnik said.

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