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Dell, Canonical tag team on Ubuntu Server tune-up for PowerEdgies

Expanding official support from cloudy boxes to general-purpose workhorses

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Enterprises don't want to just know that an operating system will run on a piece of iron, they want to know who they are entitled to yell at when it stops working properly. And that's why a new support agreement has been inked between Canonical, the commercial entity behind the Ubuntu Server distribution of Linux, and Dell, one of the largest server makers in the world.

As David Duffey, director of technical partnerships at Canonical, explained in a blog post announcing the expanded relationship between the two companies, Dell fired up reference architectures for the PowerEdge-C density-optimized servers back in July 2011, and the following May these reference architectures were tweaked to support Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, the long-term support variant of Ubuntu that most enterprise customers go with for their iron.

Dell had previously forged a tight relationship with Canonical for an earlier Ubuntu release supporting the Eucalyptus cloud controller before OpenStack was created by Rackspace Hosting and NASA and because the dominant open source cloud controller. (Eucalyptus and CloudStack are still in the game, but OpenStack is hogging all the oxygen in the data center right now.)

Canonical and Dell want to be able to support Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS on a wider range of Dell machinery, and techies from both companies have validated the Linux variant running on the current 12G generation of PowerEdge machines, which use Intel's Xeon E5 processors, and the prior 11G machines from a few years back that use a mix of Xeon 5600 and AMD Opteron processors.

You can see the Dell PowerEdge-Ubuntu certified hardware list here, which includes machines certified to run Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS and prior releases on a machine-by-machine basis. It looks like 45 of the 75 machines on the list are certified for Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS.

Tui Leauanae, the Deller who is responsible for managing the company's Linux portfolio on servers, storage, and networking gear, writes in his blog post on the arrangement that "Dell is a seeing a strong upward momentum of Linux in high volume environments" and together the two are "in a great position to service hyperscale deployments."

Under the agreement between Dell and Canonical, the Linux distie will have engineers working at Dell's server labs, and Dell will provide access to Dell labs and pre-production hardware so Canonical's technies can get the hardware and software synched up. The two have also agreed to collaborate on roadmaps.

If Dell wasn't so distracted with taking itself private, it might think about buying Canonical and having its own Linux business instead of giving all the software support money to Red Hat, SUSE Linux, and Canonical. The wonder is why Dell didn't do this a long time ago, really.

Anyway, for the 11G and 12G servers, engineers at Dell and Canonical have ensured that Dell's PERC disk controllers and PCI-Express solid state drives, among other server features unique to Dell iron. And Dell is now able to peddle Canonical's Ubuntu Advantage tech support services, which launched back in June 2010 and which are the main source of revenue for the company.

The two have agreed to a handoff mechanism between their respective tech support teams in the event of issues when a PowerEdgie is running Ubuntu Server. You have to pay for both Dell ProSupport and Ubuntu Advantage to get all this hand holding; you can't just buy one and get love from both.

In short, short of actually installing Ubuntu on servers as it does with Microsoft's Windows, Ubuntu Server is now a peer OS, just like Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Enterprise Linux Server.

Financial terms of the arrangement between Dell and Canonical were not disclosed. Presumably they both want the iron to be supported and no money changed hands, but Dell is probably getting a cut for any Ubuntu Advantage support contracts it peddles. ®

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