Dell has officially supported Linux since 1999 with our release of Red Hat Linux 6.1 for PowerEdge servers. In the course of making sure that each successive Linux release that we ship works as well as our customers demand, we have made many contributions to the open source community. These contributions have come in many forms, from hardware donations to strategic organizations, code contributions to the Linux kernel, code contributions to selected userspace utilities, to participation and sponsorship of Linux technical conferences.
One of the most significant resources that Dell dedicates to the community is the large investments in equipment and engineering resources to find, debug, repair, report, and follow-through on issues. In some cases, Dell acts an extension of the QA department of our software partners, such as Red Hat and Novell. In other cases, Dell acts as the consultant for our partners looking to provide linux drivers and applications.
Because so much of the work that we do is intimately tied to the hardware that we are selling, a lot of the contributions we have made have been in the area of the Linux kernel. We’ve also helped with device drivers for all of our hardware options (RAID, SCSI, networking, FibreChannel, …). Whenever a kernel patch is deemed necessary, we submit that upstream into kernel.org for acceptance, and then backport it into the Red Hat and Novell product kernels. This “upstream first” strategy is what enables our systems to work with all of the Linux distributions—Dell-supported product or not. Dell also maintains several kernel components.
In addition to kernel work, Dell develops userspace open source projects of its own, and Dell Engineers contribute patches to other projects on a regular basis. This covers everything from open source systems management utilities that are used within our systems management framework to vendor installer enhancements to take advantage of new hardware features. DKMS was one such project which was a precursor to the Kernel Module Package project we’re involved in today.
As a result of these activities, we’ve been able to engage the Linux community directly through active support and participation in Linux conferences such as LinuxWorld Expo, the Ottawa Linux Symposium, the Linux Kernel Summit, Red Hat Summit, and Novell Brainshare. We’re involved in helping build the worldwide Linux community, such as Matt Domsch’s involvement with the Fedora Project Board. This is our execution of the “it just works” motto our customers expect.