Dell Open Source Community Contributions Overview


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 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.

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24 thoughts on “Dell Open Source Community Contributions Overview

  1. And yet I still can’t easily buy a laptop or desktop with Linux preloaded from  With all this supposed support for Linux, how is that possible?  Why can’t I simply pick a peice of hardware that I want, be it laptop, desktop or server, and select “Linux” from a configuration menu instead of Windows?   For that matter, why is it that when I type “linux” in the search bar across the top, the results that come back do not include a single computer that I can buy that can actually run Linux?  If you guys want to be viewed as being “Linux friendly”, you have a lot of work to do.

  2. I think Dell is full of it. Why hasn’t Dell offered on its web site the ability to configure a desktop or laptop with the option of having Ubuntu or OpenSuse preinstalled and save the consumers money that is going to Microsoft?  Until Dell does that they are not helping the consumer.

  3. I have to agree with the other two commenters.  While I appreciate everything that Dell employees have done on a best effort basis, Dell is fundamentally still just another Windows PC seller, and until it making Linux available on non-server systems, it will be hard to take the claims made on this blog seriously.  Prime example, I just bought a new PC, I spent well over $3000 for a top of the line dual core Conroe based desktop, but priority #1 was Linux support minus the Windows Tax, and as such Dell was taken off the board immediately. I simply found no way to purchase such a high end system from Dell without being forced to pay for an operating system I will never use.  So instead of buying a Dell (or an HP, or Lenovo, etc) I went to my local white box store, ordered all the parts and put it together myself. 

  4. I have never ever had the ability to buy a desktop or laptop
    with Linux pre-installed on a Dell. I have always had to pay
    the Microsoft tax and then re-format the hard drive myself.
    I recently bought a Dell Inspiron 9300 and ofcourse, no
    Linux options available. Currently I am having some
    issues with the i8kbuttons utility since Dell does not offer
    any drivers for the special function keys and touchpad.
    It’s mostly functional without the extra built-in DVD player
    function keys.. If you really supported Linux and Redhat, I
    wouldn’t have to hack a Fedora Core 5 distribution utility
    in order to get the laptop to function. I know you have a
    “yum” repository, yet there is nothing useful there for us to
    install. Please stop marketing your Linux support until
    you stop taking half measures and provide REAL support
    on all your platforms. Thank you!

  5. We purchased 6 9300 laptops, and had to format them in order to install Linux. Like the others, I don’t see why we have to pay over $1000 for an OS we will never use. It would also be great to have code to support power mngmt., and other functions of HARDWARE. Why is HARDWARE Windows only???? No sensible manufacturer would limit there potential customers from everyone, to only those running one operating system, unless of course, there were back door deals that supplement the manufacturers income for only providing support for Windows.

    Bottom line, there are millions of people that want a product without paying extra money for an OS and additional apps they will never use, and they want drivers for the hardware. Wake up and provide these millions with what they want, before another manufacturer takes them away.

  6. Thank you. (Time someone said it.)

    There are a few things I’d like, also, in addition to what Dell has already done, and I hope to see further progress.

  7. Yup, agree with most of the above comments.  Until I can by a laptop or desktop with pre-loaded Ubuntu, SuSE or Fedora….or for that matter, a blank harddrive, I’m not impressed.  Dell has a long way to go to be looked at as a “Linux Friendly” company.  I’m tired of seeing “made for windows” stickers all over the place, consumers want choice!

  8. If dell would enable us to buy a desktop or notebook without windows pre-installed it would be a step forward. Now I had to buy windows to just wipe it off the hard-disk because I wanted linux on it.

  9. Like other people here I am looking for a laptop 100% linux compatible that I can buy without the microsoft tax (I don’t use this OS so paying for it is clearly a additionnal tax) directly from the webstore.
    Providing patches to the kernel is good, providing consumers with a linux compatible laptop without uneeded tax is good too, isn’t it?

  10. As a start you could provide specs and/or code for all the hardware you’re selling. Speaking of my own needs, I would like a working audio-out on the docking station to my Latitude.

  11. the linux community will never be happy ….  Dell started installing Red Hat a few years ago and what happened? No one bought the OS!  Now the linux community wants SUSE, they want Ubuntu, they want Fedora, they want Debian! 

    and here is the bigger issue … they want Dell to support them!  all of them!  A couple of hundred customers out there want to buy linux systems just so they don’t have to pay m$ft.  But for that to happen,  Dell would have to train all 10K of it’s techs on every distro of linux, hire hundreds of progammers to write drivers for each flavor of linux, and then sit back and wait, while the linux community continues to buy a white box from the local store and load their favorite version of SUSE…   anyone else here still wondering why Dell doesn’t jump into this small market?

  12. Dell does offer RedHat installed on Dell Precision Workstations. Additionally there is a suite of systems available at:

    Additionally the Linux community has information about support for Linux on Dell Laptops. I have personally tested Precision Mobile Workstations, M70/M65/M90 with SLED and it has worked flawlessly. I would recommend configuring notebooks with the Intel Wireless Cards if you do intend to put Linux on them.


  13. Clearly you are missing the point of this article. The claim
    was that Dell is fully supporting Linux on its product line,
    this is not the case by any measure. The reponses are from
    frustrated users who attempted to make a purchase with
    Linux (ANY LINUX WOULD DO), yet this has never been
    an option except from a series which are not mainstream
    and less capable then their mainline products. I challenge
    you to attempt to purchase a Dell desktop or laptop from
    their standard product line. Go on, try it. They are
    primarily providing lip service as they are incapable of
    shifting with the market. They are a super-tanker trying to
    make a sharp turn before they run a ground. Sorry to burst
    your bubble, but most Linux users consider the term
    “support” as simply an option to purchase hardware
    without proprietary (Windows) encumberances. We are
    a far more capable lot than the average Microsoft monkey.

  14. Selling systems without an OS makes more sense, as long as they have been tested and certified to work with xyz distro.

    I don’t know a single admin that would leave the default *nix install in place on a commercially purchased box. But then, there really is something to the idea of *nix admins and paranoia… 🙂

    Unfortunately, it’s all too often justified. 🙁

    Then again, Dell would likely have to charge more, having lost the.. incentives, they receive for piling trialware onto the windows installs, which brings down the cost of the hardware to the consumer.. maybe even cancels out the windows tax?

    Though, this doesn’t apply to the servers and business workstations, which don’t (or shouldn’t) come with the infuriating trialware.


  15. Actually DAh-veed, that’s not really what the Linux community wants and as you mentioned, it’s unrealistic for Dell to test all distros out there.  What the Linux community wants are laptops and desktops from Dell with hardware that works well with Linux (everything on the laptop or desktop works).  It doesn’t have to work out of the box, but at least Dell could provide the instructions on how they got things working.  Take a popular distro such as Fedora and show how you got everything working under it.  Provide links to any additional tools / drivers needed (and write these drivers if needed – for example, a utility to allow users to enable the function keys which shouldn’t be overly complicated).  That’s it.  Once they do that, they can even give users an incentive to get things working on their laptops – ex. take the top 10 distros and the first person that can illustrate how to get the laptop fully working under each distro gets a free gift or a $100 reward of rebate or whatever.  So with very little effort, each of Dell’s laptops and desktops can have howtos on getting everything working on the laptop/desktop for the 10 most popular Linux distros.  That covers 95%+ of all Linux users.  Thus, with minimal effort, Dell’s Linux users are a lot happier and can recommend Dell’s hardware to other Linux enthusiasts 🙂

    Thus, with minimal effort ($1000 or less / laptop / desktop) after their initial effort on getting a laptop/machine fully working on Linux, Dell’s customers could be a lot happier.

    PS.  For things such as enabling the fucntion keys, they can make a small site and post the code.  Linux distributions can then take this code and make packages for each distro.

  16. “Clearly you are missing the point of this article. The claim
    was that Dell is fully supporting Linux on its product line”

    no where in the article does it state that Dell is supporting Linux on it’s whole product line.  It only calls out that they fully support Linux on it’s Enterprise products.  Their support in this space is huge!

    as for every feature of your laptop working with every version of linux, or even the most widely used, getting them all to work right and providing drivers or utilities to make them work would be considered asking support from Dell. even those m$ft monkeys as you call them can understand that. 

    Some of the people here got my main comment …. There is not really a market for Linux in the desktop or portables space.  Dell sells Linux installed on it’s Precision Workstation Desktops,( but probably not enough to make it on the radar of every Linux enthuiast.  If there was a market for it, you have to admit that Dell would go straight for it.  Look what they did with printers.

  17. DAh-veed is correct, there are just not enough people wanting Linux on desktops and portables to justify the added expense, but Dell has been pretty good (better than most, I think) at making it as easy as possible to get Linux up and running on their systems.

    If there was only one version of Linux, it would be so much easier. 

    In my opinion, Linux will never be a serious desktop challenger until there is more standarization in place so that all drivers and apps work on all distros without tweeks.

  18. Dah-veeds point is well taken. There are too many Linux distro’s (versions) for Dell to support them all. But it would go a long way in supporting Dell’s Linux claims if they would pick one of the major Linux distro’s and support it fully.  At least that would prove that Dell’s hardware works with Linux. Linux user’s could then be confident that they could buy a Dell that works with some version Linux without reservation. Most likely, if the hardware works with one Linux it will work with them all.

  19. The best thing Dell can do about all this is to let customers buy Dell systems WITHOUT MS system… This will resolve all problems… People won’t need paying for the thing they won’t use and everybody’ll be happy.

  20. They sell two Dimensions, four Optiplexs with just a generic DOS load and three workstations with Linux.

    Right now, no portable systems are available because driver support is so limited for portables, but I would guess it is coming eventually.

    Anyone who has put Linux on a portable will tell you about the headaches involved.  Never tried it myself, but I have friends who have. 

    Linux is just a hobby for me, so if something doesn’t work, it doesn’t affect me much but everytime I play with my Linux system, I end up doing more tweeking and tuning that I do working, reminds me of the DOS days.

  21. So Dell sells servers with Linux, workstations with no OS and Windoze only on laptops. While this is definitely a step in the right direction more needs to be done. Dell should at least sell one distribution on the desktop and laptop offerings. Pick one any of the major distros (Ubuntu, Suse, Fedora) and make sure all the hardware works with it. If it works with one Linux distro it WILL work with the others. You don’t need to have tech support except for enterprise customers. We Linux folks have learned to depend on ourselves. If Dell doesn’t step up other smaller vendors will. When the time comes for a new laptop purchase I will look at the options. If Dell does not offer a system with Linux pre-installed I will go to a vendor that does. I will support a company that DOES THE RIGHT THING. Enough said.

  22. well i just bought there so-called open source e521n. i will be installing ubuntu on it tonight. if all the hardware works i will be happy. if not its going back….and i will try to make it work. i have yet to get linux to work without messing around with it on any system so i will give it some time. but i do think dell should pick one version of linux and make a system that runs with it 100% they can pick any distro i dont care. or heck let them make a dell-linux.they then can support it.

  23. No don’t choose one distro and support it fully. That’s a waste of time and money. Choose linux-friendly hardware. Anybody that has ever run Linux on anything knows how to install it and configure it. If you pre-loaded any version of linux 99 out of 100 people would scrap it and re-install any way, myself included in that 99. Use Linux Friendly hardware! That’s it. No support really needed. Almost all linux users are completely capable of supporting their own computers, if the hardware is friendly. Just ship out a blank laptop. No os on it at all. I don’t see what the big deal is about, other than “upsetting” M$. Make a single line of laptops with no os and Linux friendly hardware. End Of Story.

  24. Yes, I agree, the thing is to have and *communicate* the fact of hardware that is working with Linux.

     As so many others have said if the hardware works with *one* distro it will work will *any* distro as long as heroic efforts wernt required.


    IE. hardware supported in the mainline kernel, the same mainline kernel that is the basis for 99% of the distros.

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