Canonical’s Efforts to Educate Large Organizations on Ubuntu
The latest buzz around Canonical may be about extending the Ubuntu Linux platform to TVs, phones and other mobile devices and selling PCs in Asia and Europe. But that hasn’t stopped the company from continuing to market Ubuntu aggressively as a solution for corporate desktops. Here’s a look at its latest effort — an ebook recently released — and what it says about Canonical’s strategy for the big-business market going forward.
Canonical is arguably most famous for building a desktop Linux distribution that, at least until very recently, predominated among individual PC users. (And even now, it’s far from clear that Ubuntu’s massive popularity is in definitive decline.)
But Ubuntu’s success as a desktop solution for large organizations, although often received with less fanfare, has also been impressive. Ubuntu powers tens of thousands of workstations in the French national police ministry and Spanish schools, for example. And Canonical has made clear recently that this is a market it hopes to continue to pursue aggressively, with moves such as the addition to the Ubuntu website of a section oriented around business desktops and the extension of the support cycle for desktop Ubuntu.
At the same time Canonical is working to maximize Ubuntu’s attractiveness as a desktop solution for large organizations, it’s also placing heavy emphasis on educating potential customers in the business world. It wants not only to convince them that they should switch, but also to explain in practical terms how they can.
Hence the release of the ebook, Five Rules for Ubuntu Migration. Targeted at IT managers and decision-makers, it promises to show how Ubuntu “works for you in the real world” by guiding them through the process of migrating their organizations’ desktops to Ubuntu. The five easy steps alluded to in the book’s title are:
- Make a thorough plan.
- Target the right users.
- Find equivalent apps.
- Get the right management tools in place.
- Start with a small pilot.
From my perspective, points 1 and 5 are kind of no-brainers to experienced IT staff. More novel is Canonical’s recognition (in point 2) that desktop Linux is not necessarily an ideal fit for all users, since “no single operating system ever suited everyone.” Open source stalwarts would do well to admit to themselves once in a while that as great (and customizable!) as it is, in some cases Linux just isn’t going to work.
Yet at the same time, Canonical emphasizes (point 3) the importance of facilitating migrations by finding open source alternatives to the productivity applications on which organizations rely. This is an area where the IT world in general is often in denial, fixated on the idea that the functionality provided by proprietary software often just can’t be duplicated on open source platforms. That was true a decade ago, but it rarely is in the present age of cloud-based apps operated by people for whom the Web browser is a second home.
Meanwhile, while Canonical promotes (point 4) its own management tools, such as Landscape, for handling large-scale desktop deployments, it’s not too proud to remind potential customers that Ubuntu workstations are also compatible with proprietary management solutions from Canonical’s competitors, such as Microsoft Active Directory.
Thus it would appear that the Canonical migration philosophy centers around compromise and assimilation, rather than the unrealistic goal of totally eradicating everything that’s not Linux-friendly. And that’s good in a software ecosystem where intransigence is all too common.