The next version of the Ubuntu Linux operating system, due out this week, will be the first Linux distribution to support Sun's UltraSparc T1 processor, Sun said on Tuesday.

Ubuntu has become the most popular Linux distribution on the desktop in recent months due to its ease of use, and the upcoming version 6.06 LTS (Long Term Support) release - nicknamed Dapper Drake - will be the first time the project has aimed at producing an enterprise grade distribution. It will have a long-term support plan to match, with five years of support for the server edition and three years for the desktop edition.

Ubuntu previously focused on releasing an edition every 6 months, and offered 18 months of support.

UltraSparc T1 - also known as Niagara - powers Sun's CoolThreads servers, the Sun Fire T1000 and T2000. Sun has introduced massive threading into these servers, with eight cores running four threads each, for a total of 32 threads. The servers have been adopted in the data centre by companies such as eBay, Bank of America and Chinese web hoster Sina, according to Sun.

Sun has been trying to encourage open-source interest in its hardware architecture through the OpenSparc initiative, which gives developers open access to the UltraSparc T1 design. Ubuntu developers were able to complete the porting process only 10 weeks after the OpenSparc release of the chip design, according to Sun. Ubuntu debuted its first working test version for Niagara on 10 March.

"Given the broadening of our offering from desktops to servers, and the power and promise of CoolThreads servers, official support for Sparc was a natural fit with our upcoming enterprise-ready release of Ubuntu 6.06 LTS," said Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth, in a statement.

Sun executive vice president John Fowler said the availability of both Linux and Solaris on Niagara would mean more innovation on the platform. Ubuntu is also working on support for Sun's hypervisor, which will allow virtualised versions of Linux and Solaris to run simultaneously.

The development of Dapper Drake was delayed by six weeks, but is now scheduled for 1 June, according to the project's official schedule.