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For Dell, industry standard now includes Linux

Open-source OS now accounts for a quarter of Dell's enterprise business and is growing fast, the company says.

Dell, long a provider of choice for companies looking for PCs based on Intel hardware and Microsoft software, says that Linux now makes up 25 percent of its enterprise market.

The company also says it has made inroads into Linux services and to have reached a comfort level with Linux systems, to the point where it can now resolve more than 90 percent of Red Hat Linux service calls without a need to involve Red Hat, the distributor of the open-source operating system.

The figures were described by Dell's worldwide marketing director for PowerEdge servers, Jay Parker, at a conference in Monte Carlo on Tuesday.

"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."

Linux now accounts for more than a quarter of what Dell sells, Parker said. Virtually all of the business has come from customer migrations from proprietary Unix environments, from companies such as IBM and Sun Microsystems.

"We have been successful in helping customers convert from Unix," Parker said. "What those customers feel most comfortable with is what they view as an open-source version of Unix. They feel comfortable with the capability and reliability of Linux."

Up to now, Dell has mainly focused on Red Hat's Linux distribution, but it is planning to incorporate Novell's Suse Linux as well. "We were one of the earliest, and one of the biggest, customers of Red Hat, in terms of selling their product on our servers," Parker said. "Now we are in the process of approving Novell/Suse Linux as a 'tier 1' offering. (We are doing) a tremendous amount of testing, validation and certification for Red Hat and Suse, as well as offering first- and second-level support for customers on the hardware and the operating system."

Linux and open source have been a blessing for Dell as it has struggled to make an impression, other than as a desktop and laptop supplier, in enterprise computing. Martin Hingley, vice president of the European Systems Group at analyst firm IDC, said that part of the problem for the company in the enterprise is that "people don't like partnering with Dell."

"Dell has always said, 'You can partner with us, just don't expect to get any hardware margin--that's not the way we work,'" Hingley said. He added that large companies like EMC, Oracle and Microsoft are comfortable with that, but the small systems integrators are less so.

"Dell will tell you that they do (partner), but it is something like 47 European companies for the whole of Europe. You look at IBM, and it is something like 200 companies in Germany alone. So from the scale point of view for the enterprise, how do you stand up and represent a strong partnership when you are not part of an ecosystem?"

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.