Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical, founders of the popular Ubuntu Linux-based operating system, today announced the creation of The Ubuntu Foundation with an initial investment of USD10m. The Ubuntu Foundation will employ core Ubuntu community members to ensure that Ubuntu Linux will remain fully supported for an extended period of time, and continue to produce new releases of the distribution.

The Foundation's first announcement last week was that the next version of Ubuntu, due out in April 2006, will be supported for three years on the desktop and five years for server installations.

"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," 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, being listed at the top of all rankings on popular Linux distro monitoring site DistroWatch.

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.

Matt Zimmerman, CTO of the Ubuntu project, says one ofthe key drivers 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 Zimmerman.

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, said Zimmerman.

"Demand for the commercial services offered by Canonical to users of Ubuntu continues to grow," said Canonical head of marketing Jane Silber. "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.".

The extended life support program for Ubuntu version 6.04 is in line with Canonical's efforts to broaden the OEM base for Ubuntu, she said.

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.

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