Under the multiyear agreement, Dell also will provide Solaris support services to its PowerEdge customers. The agreement brings two rivals together, with Dell gaining a relationship to better serve its customers already running Solaris on their systems and Sun a potentially larger market base for Solaris.
"We have 12 million (Solaris) licenses in the marketplace, and a majority of them aren't running on Sun hardware," Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's chief executive, said during a keynote speech atin San Francisco.
In fact, Sun found a third of its Solaris users were running on Dell systems. Armed with that information, Schwartz said he approached Dell about a partnership.
Michael Dell, who joined Schwartz onstage for the announcement, said: "Our customers said they wanted us to provide better support for Solaris...It was a great chance for us to work together."
The agreement also calls for the companies to work together in certifying systems and creating products based on the Solaris partnership. The companies will work in unison to gain support from key resellers to distribute Solaris on Dell's PowerEdge servers.
Sun has been working tooperating system as widely as possible, a dramatic reversal of strategy for an operating system it nearly extinguished earlier this decade. The software is available for free, though Sun charges for support. That strategy is designed to counter Linux, the open-source operating system that's widely used on servers with x86 chips and that has proved a formidable Solaris competitor.
In particular, Sun has been working to establish Solaris support among software companies and partnerships with the major server makers. Hewlett-Packard supports Solaris on its x86-based ProLiant server line--though it argues the move is part of a strategy to coax customers to Linux on HP gear--and IBM distributes Solaris on its competing System x machines.
Sun's decision to team up with rival Dell was fairly clear, Schwartz said.
He said he imagined going to Dell's customers who were running Solaris then trying to tell them they erred and should instead buy Sun's hardware.
"The stupidest thing we could have done is to go to them and say, 'You made a mistake and you should buy from me,'" Schwartz said during a press conference after his keynote speech. "They would have looked at us and said we blew it for not understanding them."
In addition, the partnership will help Dell capture potential customers who want to run Solaris but were hesitant in making the purchase because of uncertainty around who would provide system support, Kevin Kettler, Dell's chief technology officer, said during the press conference.