Dell's Open-Source Gambits Go Server-Side - InformationWeek

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11/15/2007
03:11 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Dell's Open-Source Gambits Go Server-Side

Many in the open-source community applauded when Dell, arguably the single most influential PC maker right now, began -- however tentatively -- to provide Ubuntu Linux as one of its preloaded desktop system offerings.  Now it's going a few steps further to offer both Ubuntu Server and OpenSolaris as standard server items along with the other Linux server OSes it has traditionally offered.

Many in the open-source community applauded when Dell, arguably the single most influential PC maker right now, began -- however tentatively -- to provide Ubuntu Linux as one of its preloaded desktop system offerings.  Now it's going a few steps further to offer both Ubuntu Server and OpenSolaris as standard server items along with the other Linux server OSes it has traditionally offered.

The details: As of right now, Dell is working to get Ubuntu certified for its server products -- an assurance that Ubuntu will run with the hardware in question and not lack driver support and the like.  Support, however, is another story -- Dell's most likely to just refer you to Canonical for actual support.  That said, nothing's stopping someone from copping an Ubuntu .ISO and popping it into a Dell server now, of course -- but if you do that, you're entirely on your own (barring whatever support you'd get from the community or Canonical itself, as well).

To be honest, adding Ubuntu as a server option for Dell machines didn't surprise me all that much.  But Dell's addition of OpenSolaris to the server OS mix came as a really pleasant surprise.  It's a strong sign that OpenSolaris is being taken seriously beyond Sun's own circles; I can imagine a fair number of people drooling at the idea of using Sun's ZFS on a relatively inexpensive Dell storage farm.  On top of all that, Dell plans to provide Solaris support natively.

I'm still of the belief that what Sun wants most is to have people running Solaris, Open- or not, on its own hardware -- and even though the Niagara chip specifications also are now open (thanks to those who pointed this out), I still suspect it's Sun who will strive to provide the best possible implementation of same.  Still, a Dell server that used Niagara would be remarkable -- after all, Dell drifted away from Intel-only in recent years and added AMD to its lineup, so why not add OpenSPARC as well?

Linux on Dell servers is, of course, not in itself a new thing.  Its current servers have SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 / ES available as standard-issue OS options (although ES is only available on some server models).  Back when I bought a server from Dell (this was a couple of years ago), it also provided installation support for all those operating systems even if you didn't have them preloaded.  You popped in a special CD, booted it, supplied the OS install disc, and the preinstallation system copied over all the needed device drivers to start the install process.  If Dell can make the bare-metal setup process for Solaris or Ubuntu similarly slick (that is, for systems that don't already have those as a preload) -- along with the rest of the experience -- it will be well worth it.

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