My work at Canonical

27Sep10

A number of folks at Canonical have been writing about what we do and how our work contributes to the goal of getting free software into the mainstream. Canonical and Ubuntu have brought free software to the general public in a way that hasn’t been done before, in a very short span of time.

I’ve been working on the Landscape Team since early 2006. I was one of the founding members of the project along with Gustavo and Chris. Landscape is a web-based tool that eases the task of managing large deployments of Ubuntu. It is one of the many services that Canonical provides, as a value add to Ubuntu, and is proprietary software. At this point you’re probably thinking, “How can proprietary software help the goal of spreading free software? That’s crazy talk.” Well, in at least two ways.

Landscape makes it possible for people that could never have chosen Ubuntu to consider it, and in many cases to adopt it. Our enterprise customers look at Ubuntu and they like what it offers, but that’s only the beginning of the story. Management is a big concern for organizations that roll out tens, hundreds or thousands of Ubuntu machines. Without a management solution, Ubuntu is a non-starter no matter how good the user experience.

Landscape is a revenue generator for Canonical and, though we’d all love to release it as free software, that revenue is very important. It contributes to the sustainability of the company and thus, to the sustainability of Ubuntu itself. We do as much work as we can in the open. For example, Storm, an object relational mapper for Python, was developed by the Landscape Team and released as free software. We’ve sent patches to projects such as Twisted, txAWS and others.

Although my work may be controversial in the wider free software community I’m a free software developer at heart. The effort I put into Landscape is good for free software in general. It helps Ubuntu gain adoption in places where it simply wouldn’t be considered without a tool like Landscape. Canonical has been, and continues to be, an amazing place to work. It is full of passionate people all doing their part to get free software out into the world.

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