Michael Dell joined Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz on stage at Oracle OpenWorld to announce that Sun's open source Solaris 10 operating system would be shipping on Dell servers. "We heard from customers that they want better support for Solaris," Dell said.
Dell customers can order rack or blade servers with either Solaris or OpenSolaris installed. Support from Sun's online support organization comes through Dell, and they can download the free OpenSolaris from the Dell's Web site. Dell currently supports Windows and Red Hat and SUSE Linux on its servers.
Sun has been working for years to get major systems vendors, who are also arch rivals on the hardware side, to have reseller agreements for Solaris. In August, IBM gave official support to the Solaris on some rack-mounted and blade servers.
Schwartz said that 12 million free licenses of the Solaris exist since it went open source a few years ago, and most are not running on Sun hardware. For Dell and IBM, Solaris isn't going away, so rather than ignore an incremental revenue opportunity and providing more choice for customers, embrace it despite the competitive conflict around the servers.
Solaris works on hundreds of x86 and x64 systems, including those from Dell, IBM and HP, but the advantage of the reseller agreements is that the companies work together on engineering to fine tune the systems and marketing programs for the channel.
From a financial perspective, Dell, like IBM, can sell subscriptions to Solaris on its servers and share revenue with Sun, although it's not clear on the split. Clearly, getting a hardware sale and expanding the market is the reason to offer a choice of operating system.
Now Schwartz needs to convince HP to jump on the Solaris reseller bandwagon.