Ubuntu is one of the more popular Linux operating systems or Linux distros among many that are freely available. It comes with options for support from the community and a paid one too. It is a modern and open-source operating system that is highly reliable and is most commonly used in enterprise and management of cloud services. Let’s see How Does Ubuntu Make Money?
The short and simple answer is that Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, earns money from its open-source operating system through many outlets.
They do so by offering Paid Professional Support, accepting donations, business servers, their Landscape software, and selling software on their own Software Center.
To understand this better, we have to try to understand what open-source software is and how companies that market open-source software make money.
What is open-source software?
Open-source software is specifically known for having a publicly available source code that any individual can access and make changes to and improve the software.
This “source code” is the very core part of the software that most end users do not see or interact with in any manner. It acts as the fundamental building block in most modern-day software. This act of opening up the source code helps in allowing more independent developers to work on the software in a much broader capacity.
Conventionally, most software has source code that only the organization that created it has access to. This means that this organization maintains exclusive control over it. Any change in the software can only be made by the company that owns it, which is not ideal all the time.
Such software is often termed to be ‘proprietary’ software. In addition to not making the source code open, users have to sign a license in order to be able to use the software. Examples of proprietary software include Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop.
Although open-source licenses exist, they differ very much from those of proprietary software. Most open-source software licenses tend to promote collaboration and sharing. This results in individual developers coming forward and making changes to the source code. This process of sharing and modifying the code continues throughout the life-cycle of most open-source software.
Contrary to what its definition might suggest, open-source software is beneficial to both programmers and non-programmers. One important, yet highly overlooked aspect of the Internet that we use today is that most of it are built on open-source technologies. Whenever we use basic web services such as mail, messaging or, streaming, our computers connect to a global network of computers with the aid of open-source software.
Why is open-source software still preferred?
There is still a considerable amount of people, developers as well as non-developers who advocate for more open-source software. There are many reasons for this:
Open-source software offers a lot more control. This aspect of control is a key factor for many people when they interact with, or, develop the software. And since the source code is out in the open, there is a bigger level of transparency in understanding every process associated with the software. This factor becomes even more relevant considering how many tech giants are coming under scrutiny for taking data from their users without their full consent. Furthermore, users can use software the way they want to and do not have to abide by any company guidelines.
Open-source software aids in training programmers. Since the code is open and anyone can access it, students or interns in the industry can utilize this code to experiment and make better software. This has resulted in a huge and thriving community online that shares their work and collaborates to hone their individual skills.
Most open-source software offers a better level of security. Although this is not the case all the time, most open-source software that has a huge community backing will offer amazing stability and regular updates. In addition to that, the software cannot do anything that can be considered potentially malicious or illegal because it will become easy to spot by the developers.
The biggest reason people love open-source is the community that supports it. While most software regardless of whether they are open-source or not has a community, it differs on a very fundamental level when it comes to open-source software. The fundamental level is that the community does not just provide feedback but tends to be the people who produce, test, use, and bring about changes to the software that they like.
Open-source software and one common misconception
- Most people seem to think that because a certain software program is “open-source” indicates, that it is free or not economically viable. However, this is not true as there are many ways developers can make the software financially viable.
- Software that is free and open-source that programmers produce or contribute to can be sold for a fee. However, a majority of programmers charge consumers money for software services and support. They also directly ask for donations on their website.
- While this may not yield a huge amount of profit, it does help in staying somewhat financially viable.
How Ubuntu makes money?
- The short answer to how Canonical makes money is that they provide a long period of support to companies that use Ubuntu. Or more specifically, the LTS(long-term support) versions of Ubuntu.
- Even though LTS versions of Ubuntu fall behind in terms of the longevity of support, many clients utilize it, particularly in the cloud (AWS or Microsoft Azure) and in virtual environments in their datacentres. This is because Linux as an operating system is very ideal for such services. Keeping that in mind, companies turn to Ubuntu as it has solid support offered by Canonical.
- Companies get the reliability and lightness of Linux while also not worrying about support.
- It is because of their somewhat unique business model that Ubuntu’s popularity has grown. Ubuntu has become one of the most dominant Linux distributions among developers and in the public cloud domain.
- Customers who run essential services on local servers and in the cloud are not really capable of upgrading their software all the time. They modify, adjust, and customize many components of their infrastructure, and something will break if you make too many changes at once with a significant release upgrade.
- For most organizations, updates to their software are an unavoidable obstacle. Companies want to upgrade at their leisure rather than being forced to do so. Most big firms, as expected, tend to lean towards the idea of having extended support to build a buffer for planning and executing upgrades when they are ready, without having to worry about end-of-life issues.
- Canonical has a business model based on this need for providing software support, and the organization is not passing up this opportunity. Canonical is providing extended security maintenance (ESM) for Ubuntu LTS versions, which includes security fixed and keeping systems up-to-date in general. It should be noted that these updates are not available to the general public; instead, they are only available to users who have are part of the Ubuntu’s Advantage program.
- Needless to say, the behavior of companies might vary, depending on what they do with the software, but it is safe to say that most corporate organizations do not want to go through the hassle of upgrading all their individual computer systems. This ultimately results in huge demand for long-term support in keeping software functioning for a long time.
- It should be noted again that this long-term support is nothing more than stability fixes and security patches. Keeping the software safe and ensuring that each organization’s data is kept safe and does not fall into the wrong hands.
- Canonical has recognized this demand from the outset from corporate organizations and has in turn monetized their role by providing support.
While it may seem like Canonical has made a somewhat decent business model out of Ubuntu, the fact is that the company is still under threat by bigger companies like Microsoft. Also taking into account that most computer users around the world prefer Windows, the market share for Ubuntu is quite less.
The company’s efforts to keep the software up-to-date and running even now is commendable. We can hope that they figure out better ways to monetize the software and keep one of the most popular Linux distributions running for as long as possible.