AT&T pursues open source with Canonical's Ubuntu

Canonical announced AT&T (NYSE: T) will use its open source Ubuntu OS in enterprise, cloud and networking applications across its businesses, marking a major win that could eventually help Canonical's smartphone efforts.

The companies said they will collaborate to build Ubuntu-based apps across AT&T's internal and external systems. AT&T said it tapped Ubuntu in an effort to create more modular solutions that can be brought to scale and leverage the advantages of open source code.

"By tapping into the latest technologies and open principles, AT&T's network of the future will deliver what our customers want, when they want it," said Toby Ford, AT&T's assistant vice president of cloud technology, strategy and planning. "We're reinventing how we scale by becoming simpler and modular, similar to how applications have evolved in cloud data centers. Open source and OpenStack innovations represent a unique opportunity meet these requirements and Canonical's cloud and open source expertise make them a good choice for AT&T."

The action is notable considering AT&T for years has been moving toward software-defined networking and virtualization. Indeed, the company said recently that millions of its wireless users are running on a virtualized network, and that its initial SDN product, called Network On Demand that was introduced in early 2014 on its wired network, is now used by more than 275 business customers around the world.

Like Android, Ubuntu is an open source OS based on the Linux kernel. Canonical has long hoped to use its platform to expand into mobile, but progress has been slow: The first phones running Ubuntu came to market in Europe and China last year, and the company has opted not to market them aggressively. Instead, Canonical hopes Ubuntu gains traction in developer communities before expanding to early adopters and then, finally, to mainstream consumers.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, the company's new AT&T collaboration could provide a huge distribution opportunity for an Ubuntu-powered phone with PC-like capabilities. But neither company is discussing any such scenario yet.

"We view this as an opportunity to expand our relationship with AT&T broadly, wherever they are amenable," John Zannos, Canonical's vice president of cloud alliances and business development, told the Journal. "I can't predict what doors will open."

For more:
- see this Canonical press release
- read this Wall Street Journal report

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