Dell to Offer Suns Solaris, OpenSolaris in Servers

New deal marks the first time Solaris will be sanctioned for use in Dell hardware.

SAN FRANCISCO – Erstwhile bitter rivals Dell and Sun Microsystems are set to announce that Suns Solaris and OpenSolaris operating systems will be supported in all of Dells servers.

Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell and Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz plan to make the announcement during a joint appearance at the Oracle OpenWorld 2007 conference here today.

The agreement means that customers buying a Dell rack or blade server will get the option of installing Solaris or OpenSolaris. Customers picking one of these operating systems will get support from Suns online support organization through Dell, making the experience seamless for the customer.

This marks the first time that Suns home-grown, Unix-based operating systems will be sanctioned for use in any kind of Dell hardware. The two companies have been rivals in the server business for more than 12 years.

The new agreement means that Dell will test, certify, and optimize Solaris and OpenSolaris on its rack and blade servers and offer them as one of several choices in the overall Dell software menu.

Dell already supports Windows as well as both Red Hat and SUSE Linux in all its rack and blade servers.

According to terms of the agreement, customers will be able to freely download OpenSolaris from the Dell website. Sun has used proprietary Solaris since the 1980s as its chief operating system for workstations and servers; it released the freely available open source version, OpenSolaris, in June 2005.

The new partnership opens two new markets for both companies: Dell now can sell its hardware into both the proprietary Solaris development world and the growing open source OpenSolaris community. Sun will get its software into numerous new systems and obtain a new gateway into the SMB (small and medium-size business) market through Dells brand.

At this time, few SMBs use Sun hardware, since the company has focused almost exclusively in the past on the large enterprise market. This will start new conversations as Sun starts coming out with more mid-tier hardware.

"There are three main reasons we are doing this," Rick Becker, vice president of solutions in the Dell Product Group, told eWEEK. "No. 1 is Suns new and strong commitment to x86 systems; secondly, a lot of people are already using the Solaris operating systems; and three, our existing customers are asking for this option."

The deal gives corporate developers the option of using Suns bread-and-butter, Unix-based enterprise operating system -- which includes the fast ZFS (Zettabyte File System) -- in Dell boxes, which are generally less expensive than most other servers and used in hundreds of thousands of enterprise and SMB systems worldwide.

Becker told eWEEK that customers choosing Sun operating systems will get support via Dell in a seamless manner.

Dell appears to be getting the better part of the deal, at least at the outset. Dell will get the margins from selling the hardware, but ostensibly, Sun looks like it will be getting only service contracts from those who choose to use either of the Solaris options.

One of the first customers for this will be the U.S. Navy, Becker said.

"Theyre very high on Solaris, and they have a lot of Dell hardware already," Becker said. "And they want the traditional support package for everything. Well give them all the support they need through our open source and hardware teams, and Sun will take care of Solaris support from their end.

"Itll be a collaborative process all the way around."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...