Quick Sputnik Update

August 21, 2012

I apologize for the radio silence since OSCON.   Since announcing that we would be delivering a product this fall, our little team has been working hard to get us locked and loaded on the roadmap.  We have also been focusing on the Profile tool that Canonical has been building for us.

The other big effort that has consumed a lot of our time is ironing out  the logistics for the Beta program we announced last month.   Stay tuned, we hope to have some news on this a little later this week.

Who knew?!

Turns out that taking Project Sputnik from incubation project to real product and launching a beta program at the same in a highly accelerated manner involves a lot of uncharted territory within the company.  We are learning as we go along.

Thanks everyone for your patience and stay tuned for more Sputnik news.

Pau for now…


Project Sputnik to go from Pilot to Product

July 18, 2012

A couple of weeks ago we announced a Beta program for the four-month old Project Sputnik — an effort to investigate creating a developer focused laptop based on Ubuntu and Dell’s XPS13 laptop.

Since the beta announcement we have received thousands of applications from around the world.  This tremendous response, on top of fantastic amount of input we have received on the Project Sputnik storm session, has convinced us to take this project from pilot to product.

This fall we will be offering an Ubuntu 12.04LTS-based laptop pre-loaded on Dell’s XPS13 laptop.

Going from skunk works to mainstream

Back in the Spring, project Sputnik was the first effort green-lighted by an internal incubation program at Dell.  Thanks to the incubation program we got a little bit of funding and some executive advisers.  This incubation program notwithstanding, project Sputnik  has been a pretty scrappy skunk works effort to date.

The idea behind the incubation program is to harness that scrappiness and inventiveness to explore & validate new ideas & products outside mainstream Dell processes. Thanks to the tremendous amount of support both outside (you, the community!) and inside Dell,  with today’s announcement, we will begin making our transition to an official, “mainstream” Dell product.

  I should also mention, if its not obvious, that we have not been doing the work alone. Canonical  has been “scrappin” right besides us, helping to drive the project and doing a ton of engineering on the software side.

Beta program

As I mentioned at the start we have been completely blown away by the number of applications we have received.  We’re currently working through logistics of how to handle the tons of applications, we’ll notify all applicants soon, and intend to keep that process and the future product aligned with the spirit of the program.

To make sure that we are listening to your ideas, please continue to post any thoughts about what you would like to see in a developer laptop on our Storm session.   If you have an XPS13 running Ubuntu and want to share your experience or report a bug or issue, see our forum on Dell Tech center.

For more information on the program see the Project Sputnik FAQ

Thanks everyone for all the interest and passion, stay tuned as we push forward!

Reference: current solution details

Hardware

The solution is based on the high-end configuration of the Dell XPS13 laptop.

Software

Available now

  • drivers/patches for Hardware enablement
  • basic offering of key tools and utilities

Coming soon

  • Profile tool: a software management tool to go out to a github repository to pull down various developer profiles e.g. javascript, ruby, android.
  • Cloud tool: will allow developers to create “microclouds” on their laptops, simulating a proper, at-scale environment, and then deploy that environment seamlessly to the cloud.

Extra-credit reading

  • Press release: Dell Demonstrates Commitment to Open Source Software, Developer Communities
  • Dell Tech Center: Sputnik wiki
  • PC World — Dell’s Ubuntu‬ Laptop Program Enters Beta, ‘Blows Away’ Expectations
  • Initial thoughts on Project Sputnik from O’Reilly’s Mike Hendrickson
  • Transcript from last week’s Sputnik chat on Tech Center

Pau for now…


Sputnik update: Touchpad driver now available!!!

June 20, 2012

If you’ve been following project Sputnik — a developer laptop pilot based on Dell’s XPS13 ultrabook and Ubuntu 12.04LTS — you’ll know that the biggest draw back in these initial weeks has been the lack of multi-touch support in the touchpad.  For some this has been annoying, for others this has been such a pain that they have put their system aside until the driver becomes available.  I’m happy to say that as of a few hours ago, a fully open source driver is now publicly available.

Here are the details from Canonical’s Kamal :

The Sputnik ISO image is pre-configured to use the PPA for updates so all systems which were previously installed with that ISO will automatically be offered the PPA update and their touchpads will just start working.  Furthermore, even systems which are installed now (or later) using that ISO will still automatically be offered the updated PPA kernel when they do their first software update.

There is also a link on the Sputnik PPA page to the Cypress driver patch (and also to the whole DellXPS patch set), so folks building their own kernels from source can get it from there.

Shout outs to…

A big thanks to Kamal from Canonical, Mario on the Dell side for driving this, and the vendor Cypress for doing the work!

Extra credit reading


Sputnik update: Profile tool and touchpad

June 18, 2012

I’ve meant to blog more frequently around Sputnik but it’s been crazy busy marshalling resources within Dell for our little skunk works project.

We have captured a lot attention within the company and are trying to leverage that attention to help beef up our core team.  One of the areas outside the company we have gotten a great deal of support from is Canonical, the commercial sponsor behind Ubuntu.

Here are a couple of the areas we’ve been working on with Canonical:

The Touchpad

Probably the area we’ve gotten the most amount of inquiries into is the status of the driver being written for the touchpad to allow multi-touch support.  Last week Dell and Canonical received two code drops from the vendor and they are looking very good.  Its only a matter of time now before we have driver in the XPS enablement PPA.  Stay tuned.

Update June 21: the driver for the touchpad is now available!

The Profile tool

Over the last couple of weeks we had a series of calls with folks from Canonical to scope out the effort around the profile tool.

The basic idea around the tool is that instead of stuffing the system with every possible tool or app a developer could possibly want, we are keeping  the actual “stuff” on the install image  pretty basic.

Instead we are working with Canonical to put together a tool that can go out to a github repository and pull down various developer profiles e.g. Android, Ruby, Javascript…

After our conversations we decided to break the effort into two phases:

Phase I – “System Configuration”:

  • The first phase will focus on installing bundles of packages with a YAML-driven approach. This will allow developers to get installable components of the toolchains they need

Phase II – “User Configuration”:

  • The second phase is focused on automating the configuration of the developer’s toolchain and environment, using a model-driven automation tool like Chef, Puppet etc.
  • The idea would be to create an open community where developers can share these profiles, extend them, etc.
  • We are still figuring out the feasibility of this phase and gauging interest.

We’d be interested in any comments or thoughts you have around the profile tool, or anything else having to do with Sputnik.

I’m hoping to start providing more updates (keep you fingers crossed)

Extra-Credit reading:


Copper: Dell goes out ARMed

May 29, 2012

We’ve been watching the ARM market develop over the past few years as these highly efficient chips that have been driving tablets and cell phones have been finding their way more and more into hyperscale servers.   Well watch no more, today were are sallying forth.  Why now?  Because some of our biggest customers have told us that they felt the time is now to start working with these low powered, highly efficient chips for their servers.

HW + SW = Solution

Today we announced that we will be shipping the new Dell “Copper” ARM servers via a seed unit program to select hyperscale customers worldwide.  But a server does not an ecosystem make so we are doing what we can to help partners and developers get started building out applications for the platform.  Given that two of the key areas where the extreme efficiencies of ARM play particularly well are Web front-ends and Hadoop environments, we have “ARMed” key partners like Canonical and Cloudera with units.

Early days

At this point it is still early days in the world of ARM servers so we designed Copper specifically for developers and customers to create code and test performance, not for production.  To help developers get started we have struck a partnership between the Dell Solutions Centers and Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) to provide devs with remotely accessible clusters to develop and collaborate on.  And speaking of developers,  Dells own devs are working to deliver an ARM-based version of our open source infrastructure management software, Crowbar.

Speeds and Feeds

And in case your wondering about the specs of the hardware:

  • Dell Copper servers are a shared infrastructure design, which allows easy deployment and reconfiguration of the sleds.
  • Each ARM server node draws about 15 watts max power, so the total power draw for a full chassis is less than 750 watts.
  • The server nodes discover themselves and interconnect when deployed, so workloads can easily run across the entire 48 nodes.
  • And it’s still powerful, with four ARM server nodes per sled, and 12 total sleds, bringing a total of 48 server nodes to a single 3U C5000 chassis.

Stay tuned for more…

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…


Mark Shuttleworth part two: Developers, DevOps & the Cloud

January 13, 2012

As I mentioned in my last entry, Mark Shuttleworth of Ubuntu fame stopped by Dell this morning on his way back from CES.  Between meetings Mark and I did a couple of quick videos.  Here is the second of the two.  Whereas the first focused on the client, this one focuses on the Cloud and the back-end.

Some of the ground Mark covers

  • The cloud, Ubuntu and OpenStack involvement
  • The developer story: connecting the dots between app work on the client and testing and then deployment on the other end.
  • The world of DevOps and how JuJu fits in
  • Apple’s iOS as a developer platform and where Linux might have the edge going forward

Extra-credit reading


Hadoop World: Ubuntu, Hadoop and Juju

November 14, 2011

I’m always interested in what’s happening at Canonical and with Ubuntu.  Last week at Hadoop World I ran into a couple of folks from the company (coincidentally both named Mark but neither Mr. Shuttleworth).  Mark Mims from the server team was willing to chat so I grabbed some time with him to learn about what he was doing at Hadoop World and what in the heck is this “charming” Juju?

Some of the ground Mark covers

  • Making the next version of Ubuntu server better for Hadoop and big data
  • (0:34) What are “charms” and what do they have to do with service orchestration
  • (2:05) Charm school and learning to write Juju charms
  • (2:54)  Where does “Orchestra” fit in and how can it be used to spin up OpenStack
  • (3:40) What’s next for Juju

But wait, there’s more!

Stay tuned for more interviews from last week’s Hadoop world.  On tap are:

  • Todd Papaioannou from Battery Ventures
  • John Gray of Facebook
  • Erik Swan of Splunk
  • Nosh Petigara of 10gen/MongoDB.

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now..


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