LINUX VENDOR Canonical has said that Ubuntu 11.10 will be the first to support both x86 and ARM architectures.
Canonical's popular Ubuntu Linux distribution will get its second update of 2011 this month for both desktop and server editions. However it is the server edition that Canonical has made the biggest changes to by supporting ARM processors.
While Canonical has enjoyed considerable success on the desktop with Ubuntu, in the server market it is still behind rivals such as Red Hat and Suse with community led efforts such as Debian and CentOS also proving popular. However Canonical hopes to steal a march on all of its Linux competitors by announcing ARM support in Ubuntu Server 11.10.
Mark Baker, server product manager at Canonical, told The INQUIRER that the company's decision to deploy ARM processor support is part of the firm's desire to build awareness for long term support for the architecture. The idea is that when servers with ARM-based chips start entering the market, system administrators and management will look at Ubuntu and see support in several releases.
Canonical believes that servers are the big growth area for ARM, with Baker saying, "As you move into large-scale distributed systems power and density become challenges [...] we anticipate it will become more relevant for people over the coming years in effect."
Baker believes ARM processors will come into their own when power considerations grow. "How do we squeeze more compute power into a smaller space and have it consume less power at the same time? One of the pieces that's new in Ubuntu 11.10 is the addition of support for the ARM process."
He was also quick to say that Ubuntu 11.10 isn't the first time Canonical and ARM have worked together. "We have worked with ARM on the client side for quite a long time and have a lot of expertise with ARM and a lot of its partners."
While Canonical has announced ARM support in Ubuntu Server 11.10, Baker doesn't expect many firms to have widespread ARM server deployments soon. "We recognise it is very early on for the evolution of the ARM processor for server type workloads so this is something we don't envisage a typical business to deploy anytime soon, but it a first step on what we think will be a long term movement towards more power and efficient processing."
Baker also confirmed that Ubuntu 11.10 will have a Linux 3.0 kernel and that the desktop edition will ship with Gnome 3. Canonical's decision to bring ARM support on its server distribution shows how much it wants to become a player in the lucrative Linux server market, a market that has propelled Red Hat's revenue to over $1bn a year.
Both Ubuntu 11.10 and Ubuntu Server 11.10 will be available for download from 13 October. µ
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