Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical Ltd, founders of the popular Ubuntu, a Linux-based operating system, have today announced the creation of The Ubuntu Foundation with an initial funding commitment of US$10m.
The Ubuntu Foundation will employ core Ubuntu community members to ensure that Ubuntu (www.ubuntu.com) will remain fully supported for an extended period of time, and continue to produce new releases of the distribution. As a first step, the Foundation announces that Ubuntu version 6.04, due for release in April 2006, will be supported for three years on the desktop and five years on the server.
The Foundation was established on July 1st 2005 with an initial funding commitment of US$10 million, to ensure the continuity of the Ubuntu project and create a legal vehicle that represents the community structures of the project.
“It's important for us to distinguish the philanthropic and non-commercial work that is at the heart of the Ubuntu project, from the commercial support and certification programs that are the focus of Canonical Ltd.” said Mark Shuttleworth, who is founder of the project and is making the initial $10m commitment to the Foundation. “The core team members employed by the Ubuntu Foundation will ensure that we can meet public commitments to keep Ubuntu entirely free of charge, as well as meeting commitments of support for extended periods. I'm very excited at the progress that has been made in bringing free software to the global marketplace, and pleased to continue my support for the project in this way.”
Ubuntu has quickly become a leading distribution in the free software world, taking the #1 place in DistroWatch popularity rankings over all timescales which are published. The distribution focuses on usability, security and stability on desktops and servers, and on making free software widely available for individuals and organisations who are ready to switch from proprietary platforms, such as Microsoft Windows.
Ubuntu has also become the basis of many other derivative distributions, particularly those backed by govenments for widespread deployment. The government of Andalucia, Spain recently announced that its own version of Linux would be based on Ubuntu, and deployed in all educational operations.
Longer Server Support Cycle
One driving factor behind the creation of the Foundation was the need to ensure that an Ubuntu release can be deployed on servers, which demand much slower release and upgrade cycles. “In order to support the use of free software on database and other servers, we will be offering security support for the Ubuntu base and major server components for a full five years”, said Matt Zimmerman, CTO of the Ubuntu project.
As Ubuntu and free software in general become more mainstream, it has become costly for companies and large organisations to keep track of the rapid pace of development. In the desktop environment the problem is more manageable, and steady improvements in the usability of desktop office and productivity applications have been welcomed. In the datacenter, however, where Linux and free software are considered mature, deployments have a preference for fewer releases with long lifecycles. Ubuntu version 6.04, to be released in April 2006, will be aimed at meeting those requirements with a full five year commitment to provide security and other critical updates for servers. This also meets the needs of OEM distribution providers and ISVs, who have expressed strong interest in supporting free software environments but who prefer to be able to plan for releases and support them for longer periods of time.
The extended service support for Ubuntu version 6.04 will remain free of charge, under the same terms as the support currently provided to every release of Ubuntu. The extended service support program will only apply to designated releases of Ubuntu. Other releases, which will still be made on the current six-month cycle, will continue to receive the current commitment of 18 months free security and critical updates support.
Keeping Free Software Free
A primary goal of the Ubuntu Foundation is to ensure that a high quality distribution of free and open source software is available free of charge, throughout the world. “Free software is produced by expert volunteers who make their time and work freely available – our goal is to ensure that anybody in the world can make the best use of that work, at no charge.” said Benjamin Mako Hill, Ubuntu Community Relations. Both Canonical and the Ubuntu Foundation have made public commitments that Ubuntu will always be freely available, without the need for royalties or licence payments of any kind. “We include only free and unencumbered applications, ensuring that users have the ability to share and modify their software.”
Continued Support From Canonical
The establishment of the Ubuntu Foundation enhances the commercial commitment already made to the Ubuntu project by Canonical, Ltd. “Demand for the commercial services offered by Canonical to users of Ubuntu continues to grow. We welcome the very large number of companies that have announced support for Ubuntu both regionally and globally, and expect to continue to create additional partnership, certification and support programs in coming months,” stated Jane Silber, head of marketing at Canonical.
The extended life support program for Ubuntu version 6.04 is in line with Canonical's efforts to broaden the OEM base for Ubuntu. “The distribution has been selected by several hardware manufacturers for sale with PCs and laptops, and the availability of a long term supported release of Ubuntu that's independent of the commercial success of Canonical meets the needs of specific manufacturers in the hardware marketplace”, continued Silber.
The Ubuntu Community Council will act as the advisory board of the Foundation. Current members of that Council are Benjamin Mako Hill, Colin Watson, James Troup and Mark Shuttleworth (Chairman).
Canonical is the commercial sponsor of the Ubuntu project and the leading provider of support services for Ubuntu deployments in the enterprise.
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