Sun flirts with Ubuntu

At JavaOne, suggestions fly that Sun Microsystems will ship servers with "Dapper Drake" version of Ubuntu Linux.

SAN FRANCISCO--At JavaOne, both sides say they really like each other--suggesting a role for Ubuntu's upcoming "Dapper Drake" operating system on Sun Microsystems' servers.

Ubuntu Linux got a ringing endorsement from Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz on Tuesday. In turn, Ubuntu project founder Mark Shuttleworth appeared on stage here during Schwartz's opening keynote at JavaOne to endorse Java.

"Ubuntu is gaining a ton of momentum," Schwartz said in a meeting with reporters after his keynote presentation. "It is arguably one of the most important--if not the most important--Linux distro out there." That's a poke in the eye for Red Hat and Novell, the other two major Linux distributors.

Ubuntu hopes to make a splash in the enterprise space with the Dapper Drake release of its operating system, slated for June 1. The new version will run on 32-bit and 64-bit Intel-compatible systems, PowerPC systems and a fourth, yet-to-be-announced architecture, Shuttleworth said. Could this be Sun's Sparc?

While Sun and Shuttleworth declined to disclose their plans, it was overly clear that there is a love affair between the two. On stage, Shuttleworth asked the JavaOne audience members if they would like to see Ubuntu run on Niagara, Sun's multicore and multithread Sparc processor. The crowd responded with applause.

"The odds are quite good that we will be aggressively supporting the work that Ubuntu is doing," Schwartz told reporters. "In the hardware we ship, I don't want to be Solaris only, because then I will just define my market to be smaller than the opportunity?I think you should expect to see more of the relationship, and stay tuned."

Shuttleworth flirted back: "I absolutely believe that our June 1 release will meet the quality and support standards of Sun customers." He also added that he is optimistic that at least one server maker will commit to selling the new Ubuntu version with its hardware, he said.

Ubuntu is an offshoot of Debian and seeks to target Red Hat's position in the enterprise. Dapper Drake is the first version that will have longer-term support commitments--three years for the desktop version and five years for the server, compared with 18 months for the current "Breezy Badger" release.

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