According to a Dell marketing director, computers that run the open source Linux operating system represent approximately 25 percent of the company’s enterprise market sales. Reportedly, that 25 percent is primarily composed of sales stemming from migrations from proprietary Unix platforms like Solaris. According to Jay Parker, Dell’s worldwide marketing director for PowerEdge servers, Dell expects to see even more Linux migrations in the future:
"As part of Dell Service, we have managed over 500 Unix-to-Linux migrations," Parker told ZDNet UK. "We see that growing, not shrinking, over time."
Dell and Red Hat have had a strong relationship for the past two years, and both companies have reaped the rewards. Dell is currently one of the biggest hardware providers working with Red Hat, and the two companies have helped each other increase their visibility within the Linux market. Red Hat also works with other major enterprise hardware and services vendors like IBM and HP.
Although Red Hat is currently Dell’s distribution of choice, the computer builder plans to support and distribute Novell’s increasingly popular SUSE Linux distribution as well. According to Parker, Dell is "in the process of approving Novell/Suse Linux as a ‘tier 1’ offering."
Novell has invested a tremendous amount of developer resources in its Linux offerings in an effort to win developer mindshare and compete squarely with Red Hat for dominance of the enterprise Linux market. A relationship with Dell could give Novell the edge it needs to catch up with Red Hat. The SUSE Linux distribution has a number of unique features that make it a compelling choice for enterprise servers. For instance, upcoming versions of SUSE will feature the AppArmor security platform and a relatively new management system for proprietary drivers that will enable the distribution to provide broader hardware support.
Although Dell doesn’t really do Linux on regular consumer desktop computers (for regular Linux consumers, they sell a few workstation models without Windows), the company fully acknowledges the importance of Linux and open source software in the server market. Dell managed to gain a major foothold in the realm of Unix to Linux migrations by leveraging Red Hat’s software and expertise. Now Dell is expanding its Linux server offerings and giving corporate consumers a broader selection of choices. If Dell’s success in the Linux market is any indication, I think we can expect to see more proprietary Unix users turning to the open source operating system in the future.