Dell plots Ubuntu laptop for developers with eye on OpenStack cloud

Project Sputnik aims to equip developers with a launchpad for developing, testing, and deploying services to the cloud

Dell this week revealed Project Sputnik, a six-month-long pilot program to develop an Ubuntu laptop designed specifically for developers and devops, with the long-term vision of providing a client on which developers can build, test, and seamlessly launch services to an OpenStack-powered cloud environment.

The company is soliciting feedback from the developer community to come up with specs for the machine, which will start with an XPS13 laptop running Ubuntu 12.04. The goal is to deliver a stripped-down machine that comes loaded with all the necessary drivers and functionality developers want, but without the performance-draining bloatware, according to Barton George, Cloud Computing Group evangelist at Dell.

Notably, this isn't Dell's first foray into the world of Ubuntu. The company is among the minority of hardware vendors offering any kind of end-user machines loaded with the operating system. Further, the company announced new servers last year loaded with Canonical's Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC).

One of Dell's visions for Project Sputnik is to enable developers to download premade, ready-to-use developer environments -- effectively profiles with all the necessary tools for coding in various languages. "If you wanted the Ruby profile for developing in Ruby, or Android, or JavaScript, you could go and take those packages down and use them on your system," George said in the Dell Vlog.

The idea is for a developer to be able to easily load a new profile to a machine on the fly from GitHub in case he or she wants to start coding in a new language. "People will get excited about building out more profiles for themselves," said George.

The long-term vision for Sputnik is to equip developers with a lightweight system that would serve as a launchpad for pushing applications to a cloud back end powered by OpenStack. "The idea is that you would develop in a microcloud on the laptop itself. You would then push it out to a test environment, which you then push out to a cloud," said George. "You have a seamless connection of tools that are all linked together in a very devops kind of a fashion."

If Project Sputnik proves sufficiently successful, Dell also could roll out a heavyweight counterpart to the envisioned lightweight machine, "a big honking machine that people could do more heavyweight-type developing on," said George.

Developers have started contributing dozens of suggestions for Project Sputnik on Dell's Idea Storm site. Among the suggestions:

  • At least a Core i7 processor
  • 8GB of RAM
  • A fast solid-state drive
  • A midrange Nvidia GPU
  • At least seven hours of battery life
  • A matte display with a resolution of at least 1,440 by 900
  • A high-quality keyboard
  • A high-quality touchpad
  • The option for a multilingual keyboard and installation
  • A preinstalled virtual version of Windows 7

This story, "Dell plots Ubuntu laptop for developers with eye on OpenStack cloud," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.