Rumors about the use of Ubuntu inside Google is not new. Some say Google has their own version of Ubuntu called Goobuntu and they have it deployed in large numbers inside Google campuses. All such rumors can finally be laid to rest. Thomas Bushnell, the tech lead of the group that distributes Linux to Google's corporate desktops unveiled Goobuntu at LinuxCon 2012, an annual convention organized in North America each year by the Linux Foundation.
Google is an Ubuntu Advantage Customer, Confirms Canonical's VP
During his talk at LinuxCon 2012, Thomas Bushnell confirms that Google uses an Ubuntu variant as its preferred OS for their desktops. According to him, "Goobuntu is simply a light skin over standard Ubuntu" and that "Google uses the latest LTS (long-term support) release of Ubuntu", which would be Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS.
Google uses the LTS versions because the two-years between releases is much more workable than the every six-month cycle of ordinary Ubuntu releases. Besides, Google also tries to update and replace its hardware every two-years so that syncs nicely as well.
On the question of why Ubuntu instead of say Mac or Windows, Bushnell explains that "Googlers are invited to use the tools that work for them. If Gmail doesn't want work for them, they can use pine and that's fine. People aren't required to use Ubuntu." But, Goobuntu use is encouraged as "All our development tools are for Ubuntu."
There's more. Google doesn't just use Ubuntu and contribute to its development, Google is a paying customer for Canonical's Ubuntu Advantage support program. Chris Kenyon, who is Canonical's VP of Sales and Business Development, and was present for Bushnell's talk confirmed this and added that "Google is not our largest business desktop customer."
Further reading: The truth about Goobuntu [ZDNet]