Friday, February 21, 2020

Ubuntu: from passionate amateurs to competitive advantage

Note: This story was previously published on LinkedIn Pulse.

Innovation happens when our creativity is challenged by the immutable forces which determine the reality we live in. It is natural for innovation to occur spontaneously, triggered by accident, but we can provoke an increase of innovation through a lively exchange of ideas, collaboration, and sometimes stress in the face of a deadline or other external force.

Frustrated by his inability to use commercial UNIX for his 80386 processor, Linus Torvalds famously wrote and subsequently released his Linux kernel as free software to the world. Nevertheless, it took almost 15 years until in his 2005 TED talk, Charles Leadbeater recognized the value of "passionate amateurs" rather than in the isolation of enterprise think groups or centers of excellence. Still, open-source in the enterprise was an internet phenomenon, something for institutions of higher education maybe, but certainly not for the Global 500.

Ten years later, in yet another TED Talk, Stefan Gross-Selbeck mentions the attractive economics of open source, explaining that "it has never been as easy or as cheap as today to launch a digital product or service. [..] open source software, frameworks like Ruby on Rails, all contribute [to this]." He continues to conclude that "size does not matter" anymore in terms of the ability to innovate and then disrupt even multi-billion dollar industries. But it turned out, open-source had even more to offer.

Open source driven creativity graduated from an idea around passionate amateurs, users, to a force able to democratize the entire landscape of innovation.
In 2019, not the use of open source, but the speed by which it can be consumed drives differentiating features into a software-defined market.

Let's look at the latest example of open source innovation. Kubernetes was released by Google in 2015 as an open-source project in the face of stiff competition. Mesosphere and Docker both represented the state of the art in containers as far as the markets were concerned, and it would take until the end of 2017 when users finally concluded that Kubernetes was going to be "it". Since then, the popularity of the container coordination framework soared, with KubeCon Seattle 2018 tapping out at 8,000 visitors with a further 2,000 on the waiting list.

Ubuntu was founded in 2004 on the idea that the collaborative spirit of the open-source world could be transformed and delivered to users with the goal to incentivize them to contribute to, and participate in, the "community of passion" around open source. As we at Canonical celebrate 15 years of delivering open source to our users and customers, we recognize daily the empowerment open source brings by distilling the upstream innovation and creativity and enabling its consumption for everyone.

In many ways, Ubuntu's story developed in parallel to that of open source in general. Maybe because Ubuntu has remained true to providing unmitigated access to the "latest and greatest" it has remained extremely popular with developers and innovators over the years. Today, Ubuntu is leading the field in cloud guests, container host, and base image OS across all major public clouds. Ubuntu runs in the majority of on-premise cloud infrastructure, with over 55% of OpenStack clouds running productive workloads built on Ubuntu. More than two million Ubuntu instances are being launched every single day on the public cloud alone.

As more Global 500 realize that unstifled innovation through the open-source accelerator leads to a maximum gain of competitive advantage against competitors, so does their natural tendency to use and leverage Ubuntu increase. Building on the premise of providing comprehensive, secure and timely access to open source across both infrastructure and application layers remains Canonical's top mission in 2019 and beyond.

Leveraging our Ubuntu Advantage program, thousands of customers have already realized the potential unrestricted access to secure and supported open source brings. With the rapid growth in the open source ecosystem, it is Canonical's commitment to its customers being the most trusted, comprehensive and economical partner driving open source innovation forward. The incredible response from the users, community and beyond that, the market, has been nothing short of humbling and motivating for us. With the leading companies and research institutions in the world leveraging Ubuntu for use cases such as autonomous cars, AI/ML, robots, space exploration, 5G network transformation and GPU acceleration, Ubuntu use and interest in Canonical services have experienced an all-time high and continue to grow at an unprecedented rate.

As we near our anniversary of 15 years of Ubuntu releases, not a bad position to be in. I for one hope you enjoy the upcoming 19.10 release, which carries special significance to long-time users and Linux enthusiasts like me and join in a reflection of just how fundamentally free and open source software has changed the technology landscape.

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Ubuntu: from passionate amateurs to competitive advantage

Note: This story was previously published on LinkedIn Pulse. Innovation happens when our creativity is challenged by the immutab...