Meet the Platform Team Managers: Matt Zimmerman

In this final interview in my Where Karmic's Karma Comes From series, we meet Matt Zimmerman, Ubuntu CTO and chair of the Ubuntu Technical Board. Matt brings each team together with his tireless efforts to ensure quality, professionalism, and polish to each release.

Other recent interviews introduced managers of the Foundations Team, Mobile Team, Desktop Team, Kernel Team, Community Team, and Ubuntu QA Team.

Amber Graner: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do at Canonical and for the Ubuntu Project?

Matt Zimmerman: As Ubuntu CTO, my role at Canonical is to lead the Ubuntu Platform team, which is responsible for creating and developing Ubuntu, including Desktop Edition, Server Edition, Netbook Remix, and so on. I also chair the Ubuntu Technical Board, one of the project's primary governing teams. I've occupied these roles since Ubuntu began over five years ago.

In addition, I'm temporarily standing in as engineering manager for the Server Team for the remainder of the 9.10 release cycle while we have a vacancy in that position. In that capacity, I'm helping the server team to develop and release 9.10 Server Edition, particularly with regard to its cloud computing features.

AG: Out of all the things in the Karmic release, what are you and your team most proud of?

MZ: In my capacity as CTO, I'm immensely proud of the way the Ubuntu development team pulls together, when developers help each other to solve problems, both within Canonical and in the community as a whole. While it's nothing new in Karmic, that culture of teamwork is a big part of what I find rewarding in my work on Ubuntu. In terms of features, there are just so many wonderful new things across all of our products that I couldn't possibly single out just one. The press releases and technical overview describe many of the most prominent new features.

As server engineering manager, I can say that I'm most proud of the way the server team has reshaped Ubuntu Server Edition into the best operating system for cloud computing.

When 9.10 is released next week, developers and system administrators using Amazon EC2 will be immediately able to deploy new Ubuntu 9.10 servers in Amazon's cloud by running a single command. They'll be up and running in seconds, while everyone else is still downloading the 600+ megabyte CD images. All Server Edition releases and updates will be available on EC2 from now on: no hardware required.

Those who download Server Edition will be able to set up their own Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud using two or more servers, in just a few simple steps. This gives them the power and flexibility offered by EC2, but under their full control. This will enable them to instantly create and manage virtual Ubuntu servers whenever they're needed, with the peace of mind that all of their data and hardware remains under their full control.

AG: What was the biggest obstacle you faced for this release and how did you over come it?

MZ: For the server team, it's been working with leading edge technology like Eucalyptus, to take full advantage of it for the 9.10 release. There are always challenges which arise when we integrate new and fast-moving software into a product, but still need to release on time and meet expectations for quality.

By working closely with the Eucalyptus developers, the Foundations Team and others, we've managed to make Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud easy to set up and try out, despite it being quite new and rapidly evolving.

AG: What can be expected from you and your team for Lucid Lynx, Ubuntu 10.04?

MZ: Cloud computing will continue to be a strong theme for us in Server Edition 10.04, where we're envisioning even more advanced capabilities which haven't yet been seen in any other cloud platform. With this being an LTS cycle, we'll be aiming to stabilize and harden the entire stack to make it ready for even the most punishing of workloads.

AG: Understanding that every developer and community member's contribution and participation is appreciated – if you had to name a "rock star" that helped Karmic's Karma Rock, who is it and why?

MZ: I would rather not single out any one individual as a "rock star" because Ubuntu is fundamentally a team effort. While there are many people who have made outstanding individual contributions to the release, none could have accomplished them alone. It is with the support of the community as a whole that Ubuntu is where it is today.

To extend your music analogy, Ubuntu is not a solo act, and when the band sounds good, it's because we are all playing our parts well.

AG: How and where you would encourage more community contributions?

MZ: I would like to see the Ubuntu community become more welcoming to women contributors, by creating an environment where equal rights and equal
opportunity are everyone's responsibility. This means taking a critical look at ourselves and our behavior, and acknowledging that we need to do better.

Ubuntu has set an example from the start by committing to a higher standard for collaboration, embodied in the Code of Conduct. Taking this commitment seriously means holding ourselves accountable for this imbalance in our community, and doing something about it.

Women are grossly under-represented in the open source community, even in comparison to the software field in general, and Ubuntu is no better than the rest of the community in this respect.

I encourage the men in our community to do more research into this topic, and consider how they can embody the spirit of Ubuntu with regard to women.

AG: When you think of the Ubuntu Community and the Spirit of Ubuntu, what comes to mind and how do you foster that within yourself and your team?

MZ: When I think about Ubuntu, the philosophy, I think of interdependence, of people helping each other to realize the full potential of the group.

I try to foster that spirit in myself through humility, by reminding myself of how many people's actions have contributed to the achievements I might
otherwise see as "mine". As a manager, as a free software developer, and as a thinker, I stand on the shoulders of giants.

In my team, I try to remind everyone that communities, teams, and companies can be much more than the sum of their parts. We realize our full potential only through others, by depending on each other in pursuit of a greater goal.

Thanks for giving me and my colleagues the opportunity to participate in these interviews. I'm looking forward to celebrating the Karmic release!

AG: Matt thank you! The Canonical Platform team and the Community Collaboration effort is an exercise in excellence, and one you all and the community together excel at as you all demonstrate the power of teamwork.
I have to thank each manager and team that participated in this series. What an awesome group of managers Canonical has on their staff and the Ubuntu Community has leading the charge for an amazing GNU/Linux distribution – Ubuntu, "Linux for Human Beings".

I, too, am looking forward to celebrating Karmic's release this Thursday, October 29, 2009 and can't wait to see what this latest version of Ubuntu brings to my desktop!

More information about the QA Team can be found at: For more info on how you can participate in and contribute to Ubuntu, visit:


Follow along as Ubuntu enthusiast and Community organizer Amber Graner helps put the "You" in Ubuntu.

Amber Graner is an active Ubuntu community member and organizer who encourages everyone around her to participate, support, and learn about Ubuntu and Open Source. With a smile and a sense of humor, Amber reminds people that there is a place for everyone in the Ubuntu community – regardless of technical skill level (or lack thereof). She is constantly looking for people, places, and events within the Ubuntu community that help inspire Ubuntu users to participate actively within the Ubuntu community. Email Amber at amber AT ubuntu-user DOT com.


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