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Dell services tap Red Hat partnership

The computer maker begins offering new services to help customers install and use Linux, but Red Hat will be doing much of the behind-the-scenes work.

SAN FRANCISCO--Dell Computer began offering new services Tuesday to help customers install and use Linux, but Red Hat will be doing much of the behind-the-scenes work.

Dell, known for its efficiency in manufacturing and marketing computers, is gradually expanding its services business to charge customers for work such as choosing new software and deciding what hardware is best to run it on. At the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo on Tuesday, the company announced several new services for Linux.

Dell will offer some Linux services itself, including help in installing the Oracle 9i and 9i RAC database software, said Randy Groves, general manager of Dell's enterprise systems group. But for many other services, Dell will sell them while Red Hat does the work, Groves said.

Those services include helping a customer translate its own custom software from Unix to Linux, learn how a Linux system will cut costs over alternatives, or set up trial Linux systems.

Linux, a clone of the Unix operating system, grew up in academia and on the fringes of the computing industry, but it now has won support from companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM and has won a place among major customers.

Dell, unlike HP and IBM, sells only Red Hat's version of Linux on its servers.

Offering services often requires deep expertise in tuning software, and Dell isn't interested in sponsoring in-house Linux experts, Groves said. However, Dell does help advance the Linux cause by ensuring hardware makers provide necessary software so Linux systems can use components such as particular network adapters or storage systems.

Linux ships pre-installed on about 13 percent of Dell's servers, Groves said, but the company estimates closer to 18 percent to 20 percent of them end up running it because customers themselves install it.

Dell also announced an improvement to its high-performance computing products that let a network of dozens of Linux computers tackle a particular problem. The company now supports as a standard product networks of as many as 128 computers, uses management software Platform Computing, and supports high-speed networking switches from Myricom, Groves said. This high-performance clustering product will work on Dell's coming super-thin "blade" servers.

Imax, the company behind the wraparound, vertigo-inducing movie screen, is a new customer of Dell's high-performance cluster. It's using a 60-server cluster with 120 Intel processors to transform ordinary movies, starting with Apollo 13, into the higher-resolution Imax format, Imax President Greg Foster said.

Dell also is pushing the computational clusters for companies in financial services, oil exploration and biological research.