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Corporate Ubuntu Linux Users Now Have Premium Support Offerings at Their Fingertips

After many months of growing requests by corporate users, Ubuntu Linux is now offering a new high-level support plan to large corporations to better serve their employees who use Ubuntu Linux for their work.

In an announcement last week, Canonical Ltd., the company behind Ubuntu Linux, unveiled an advanced service and support program to help large customers better manage and maintain their Ubuntu Linux deployments. The new "Premium Service Engineer" (PSE) support program will provide a single point of contact for Canonical’s large customers, according to the London-based company, giving customers faster response times and faster issue resolution with their Ubuntu products. The PSEs will have direct access to all levels of support to assist users, including access to Canonical’s platform designers and engineers.

Ubuntu and Canonical have previously offered telephone and e-mail support to users for a fee, but this is the first time for a targeted, detailed, high-level support offering for large enterprise customers, said Steve George, Canonical's director of corporate services.

"Essentially, Canonical has been offering support services for the last couple years to consumers and businesses," George said, but not to this level of detail. But as Ubuntu Linux has continued to gain business in enterprises, "we've been reaching more and more users in corporate settings and they’ve been asking for more services."

The new PSE offering is available immediately through Ubuntu's Web site. Pricing is typically about $50,000 for the added support for a deployment of about 1,000 desktop Ubuntu Linux users, George said.

The extra fee brings huge support resources to enterprise users, he said. "You’ve then got somebody who is a virtual member of your team," George said. "They know your setup. They learn all about you and know all about you and your company's needs. You can effectively pick up the phone and get help or talk to them. This changes the dynamic, because support is normally reactive."

The PSE offering means that enterprise users who want to get a higher level of assistance can now get that, he said. "A lot of corporate clients want pro-active support so that when they're doing something with Ubuntu, before they even do it, they can call and get advice and help. The biggest complaint for any corporate customer of any sort is that the person at the other end of the telephone line doesn’t know anything about them."

The PSE program won't be the most common support offering from Ubuntu or Canonical, he said, "but among companies who are using Ubuntu--and that group is growing rapidly--this is the thing they wanted."

The new Canonical/Ubuntu enterprise support services mimic similar upscale support offerings from other high-profile enterprise Linux vendors, including Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc.'s SUSE Linux. Both Red Hat and SUSE have much larger installed bases for their enterprise Linux offerings, but Ubuntu is diving in with enthusiasm--and that's arguably a good thing for the Linux marketplace.

George said he expects the new offering to be "very popular." The support program began as an informal project with some customers in the past but is now being rolled out formally, he said.

One early user of the new PSE program is Ubuntu partner, Isotrol, an engineering consultancy and IT systems support service provider in Seville, Spain. "Having a Premium Service Engineer has been vital to getting the level of support we require to improve our operational infrastructure," Isotrol Chief Technology Officer Antonio Jose Saenz, said in a prepared statement. "As we are involved in the delivery of many open-source projects and ourselves operate a large Ubuntu and Debian server and desktop environment, being able to rely on a dedicated Ubuntu expert from Canonical reduces the pressure of supporting high-profile open-source projects externally and internally."

A key to bringing in the new PSE support services, Saenz said, was having instant expert assistance. "One of the reasons we decided to engage a Premium Service Engineer from Canonical was to have an open-source Ubuntu expert on-hand on a continuous basis to help and ensure all our business units equally benefited from operational best practices," he said.

Saenz could not be reached for additional comment by press time.

In July, Canonical made another intriguing move--it released the source code to the open source community for its widely-used Launchpad open source software development platform.

 

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