Canonical's Landscape should be cheaper

Landscape is a great tool but at its current price and integration with the costly Ubuntu Advantage service plan, uptake will be slow.

Published 2011-01-16. Read 1,981 times. Comments. Tagged: canonical ubuntu

Landscape is a tool allowing system administrators to manage and monitor. I’m not here to go over its many features other than to say it’ll save time if you have more than a couple of machines because it lets you see and apply package upgrades. It does do a lot more.

I have six Ubuntu machines under my direct control. My desktop, media centre, girlfriend’s netbook and three servers. Making sure updates get done isn’t too much of a chore but it does require five minutes of my time per machine.

I played around with Landscape’s free trial a few months ago. At the time I had four servers and it was looking like more were on the cards. I ended up scaling an existing server instead because it worked out cheaper but in that time I learned to love Landscape. It’s just there for you. You don’t have to SSH into all your endpoints, you just tell it what packages you want installed on the groups of computers and it just happens.

My trial ended and I looked at the pricing model. Currently the only way you can get paid access to Landscape is by taking out a fully-blown support contract: Ubuntu Advantage.

This is a rounded, enterprise-aimed solution and its price tag mirrors this: £104.21 per desktop and £202.11 per server. Plus VAT (sales tax). In total I’d have to spend £1102.75 per year for six computers! For a one-man operation to small businesses or just somebody who wants to manage their home machines, this sort of price seems like a bit of a joke.

The main problem is Landscape being tied to the support contract. I can understand the business logic. Big business Ubuntu users will want this tool, perhaps more than the support contract but only making it available through a support contract means they sell more support. More support contracts means more money.

But I think that’s wrong. I think Canonical have a tool here that is truly “best-in-class” good. Many home users and small businesses have more than one machine and would benefit from Landscape; normally it would be an easy sale but by setting the price so high, none of these users will consider it.

I think “£5/month per block of 10 computers” would do well.

  • Within the realm of pocket change. Most people won’t have to think hard to justify the cost. Thousands of licenses will fly out the door.

  • It gets the user into a Canonical-controlled space. This captive audience is critical when it comes to cross-selling and up-selling products. They could easily advertise other Ubuntu Advantage services.

  • When a Free and Open Source competitor comes along (and it will) users already on Landscape will be less likely to migrate. It’s a fact of life: people get comfortable in their surroundings and for such a small amount of money, it wouldn’t be worth the effort of setting it all up again.

  • Canonical finally gets a decent usage-metric.

  • Features could be held ransom. It wouldn’t seem unreasonable to limit the “home version” to a subset of tools. Some more enterprise-aimed features (eg: SMS alerts, monitoring triggers, etc) could be held back for people who wanted to pay for them.

Obviously keep bundling it in with the support packages but please recognise that some of us neither need or can afford paid support. I’m sure it’s very good but at the same time, I’m involved in a community support project that’s awesome.

About Oli: I’m a Django and Python programmer, occasional designer, Ubuntu member, Ask Ubuntu moderator and technical blogger. I occasionally like to rant about subjects I should probably learn more about but I usually mean well.

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