There is, additionally, a team that’s working on management infrastructure, so providing people with a comprehensive framework to manage large deployments of servers. That won’t be released for Dapper, but all the foundations of it will be there so that Dapper will be manageable just as people have come to expect a Red Hat Enterprise deployment to be managed, through the web. We’ll deliver that same level of functionality with Dapper as soon as the other pieces of that solution are in place.
It seems it will be a paid service, much like Red Hat Network. There is even a placeholder package that recently slipped into dapper, called landscape-client, which will probably be replaced by a "nwu-agent"-like tool to manage the server.
This is a feature that makes Ubuntu attractive to the slice of the corporate market that likes "enterprise"-rated products. It also helps us understand that Canonical is not an awkward humanitarian organization, but a market-oriented company (although with a philosophy). Secret projects are expected in such a context.
I think they should have brought this to the public before, although I would have worked on NWU anyway. I still am working hard on it, for three reasons: 1) it appears that landscape will not be free; 2) Debian will (I presume) still miss a tool like that and; 3) I've dedicated months of my free time to code an implementation that spec and it's almost there.
I'm hoping that this software would not replace NWU entirely, so it's not a big issue.
I do think they should have mentioned it, though - maybe in the NetworkWideUpdates spec.
This behaviour may not break the "never ask for a fee" and "totally free environment" policies, but makes it less attractive for the community to contribute to Ubuntu. Project contributors don't get this kind of surprises with Debian, for example.