How to Get One Of Dell’s Linux-Based Developer Laptops And Become A Sputnik Beta Cosmonaut

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Dell has a skunks works project underway to offer a Linux-based laptop made for developers. Dubbed “Project Sputnik,” the effort has started to gain some traction.

As part of its development, Dell has launched a beta program called the Sputnik Beta Cosmonaut program. Selected participants will receive the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook with Ubuntu 12.04LTS pre-loaded at a discounted price.

Project Sputnik signals Dell’s changing focus to offer open-source technology that it can integrate into its servers, storage and networking offerings and solutions.

Part of this effort means attracting developers to a laptop that they can configure in the way they wish.  Here’s what Klint Finley wrote a few months ago upon the launch of the project:

Hardware enablement is table stakes but where Sputnik starts to get interesting is when we talk about profiles. No two developers are alike so instead of stuffing the system with every possible tool or app a developer could possibly want, we are trying a different approach. As mentioned above, the actual “stuff” on the install image is pretty basic, instead we are working with a few developers to put together a tool that can go out to a github repository and pull down various developer profiles. The first profiles we are targeting are Android, Ruby and JavaScript. […]

In a blog post this week, Dell’s Barton George writes that the laptop is now available on Dell.com. The page points you to where you can buy the XPS 13 and an image to load on it.

But if you want to get one of the discounted versions then you have to agree to be a volunteer:

If you are interested in getting your hands on a project Sputnik beta unit we are now recruiting volunteers for the Sputnik Beta Cosmonaut program (and yes we know the original Sputnik was unmanned, we’re taking artistic license here).  A limited number of applicants will be selected to receive a discounted, beta version solution. If selected, all we ask is that you use the system regularly and give us your honest feedback on the project Sputnik forum.

Here’s the form to apply.

I’ve talked often with George and his colleague Michael Cote about the laptop and the hopes for what it will provide. Mostly, though, for me, it shows how Dell is putting attention into open-source efforts such as Crowbar, a tool Dell developed and open-sourced.  Finley writes “the tool is an open source deployment tool that can provision OpenStack from bare metal up to higher level Chef configuration. It can be expanded using plugins called “barclamps,” which add support for tools like Cloud Foundry and Zenoss. Dell can then leverage this platform for building solutions on top of it, such as its Apache Hadoop solution.” Dell is active in OpenStack, the open-source cloud effort that is providing the framework for anyone to build open cloud environments.

Project Sputnik an exciting project that shows how a big hardware company is changing course. George and Cote represent a new generation of leaders who recognize that the future of the enterprise is an open one. Hardware and software will continue to integrate at the device level clear through to the infrastructure. In this automated world, we need the flexibility and the ability to leverage services far more than on-premise software. Efforts such as Project Sputnik represent how this change will occur.