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Dell cuddles Canonical for big Ubuntu fluffer love

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Dell is working with Canonical to help customers float Ubuntu-powered open-source clouds while also cozying up to developers.

The hardware maker, better known for flogging PCs and servers running Linux's chief OS rival Windows, is working with Canonical on plans to take the sweat out of setting up Ubuntu clouds on its data-hungry Poweredge C 1100, 2100, and 6100 1U-to-4U servers.

Dell's director of cloud software solutions John Igoe has promised The Reg that reference implementations for Dell's servers running the Amazon-cloud-ready Ubuntu will be ready in the "next few months".

The Ubuntu-based blueprints are being created so that aspiring fuffers outside the top-tier of web properties can implement clustered compute and storage clouds without calling on special services or customized products.

Dell had been talking to Greenplum to include its open-source business intelligence software tools in the planed stacks — at least, that was, before Greenplum's acquisition by EMC.

Hadoop, the open-source distributed computing and data storage framework, is also in the frame.

Igoe told The Reg in a recent interview that Hadoop "has a very major role to play", and could feature in Dell's open-source plans because of its scalability and customer base.

He noted however that Hadoop has been held back by its complexity — but "Dell could help solve that through partnerships".

Igoe works in Dell's Data Center Solutions Group that's home to the Dell super servers behind some of the web's biggest properties such as Bing and Salesforce.

Since Dell's acquisition of service provider Perot Systems, Igoe has been hunting down Perot employees experienced in Hadoop and other software.

Dell's work on an open-source comes as it announced pre-integrated server, networking and storage stacks. The company is targeting Java and Python applications in retail, gaming, and social media for the hardware. According to Igoe, Dell's avoided Windows because "it wouldn't fit".

It's the addition of Ubuntu to the hardware mix, though, that has really tweaked developers' interest in a company they'd normally associate more with churning out commodity hardware and flirting with Linux on netbooks.

"The one that gets their [customers'] attention is Canonical: we want to show people we are thinking outside the box," Igoe said. "Canonical has a credible solution with people, based on the Eucalyptus and Amazon cloud."

Ubuntu uses Amazon EC2 APIs and Amazon Machine Images in its server-based Enterprise Cloud variant. Ubuntu is also bundled with Eucalyptus, the open-source cloud infrastructure for server clusters which supports many different clients and is also compatible with Amazon's EC2 APIs.

Canonical claims 12,000 downloads of its cloud server, having worked with some customers on setting up their Amazon-liked clouds.

Igoe noted it has been difficult for Dell to gain credibility in software. Dell hopes to gain customers by offering modular software options instead of a single stack. The work with Canonical follows on the heals of the companies' collaboration tuning Ubuntu for netbooks.

Igoe called Dell's move into software a marathon, not a sprint, with acquisitions such as Perot providing a strategic step.

In a shot at IBM, Igoe claimed Dell can gain further credibly by offering a neutral offering because it's not bound by a legacy of the company's own proprietary server software. ®

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