Sputnik has landed! Introducing the Dell XPS 13 Laptop, Developer Edition

November 29, 2012

A little over six months ago we announced a scrappy skunkworks project to pilot a developer solution based on Ubuntu 12.04LTS and our sleek XPS 13 laptop.  Thanks to the amazing feedback and support we have received from the community, today we are announcing the availability of the resulting official product – the Dell XPS 13 laptop, developer edition.

What’s exactly is it?

Here is an overview of the components of this client-to-cloud solution and some key facts:

Hardware: XPS 13 laptop, high-end config

  • I7 CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD

Software

Price: $1,549 $1,449* (includes 1 yr ProSupport)

*Updated 11/30/12: the community pointed out we had not priced consistently across our online stores, this has been fixed.  This offering was always intended to be priced less than Windows.

Availability

  • Small office/consumer - U.S.
  • Enterprise – U.S./Canada
  • Outside the US  – early 2013

Community projects: Profile tool and Cloud Launcher

The profile tool and cloud launcher are beta open source projects that we have just kicked off on github.  These projects are quite nascent at this point and we are looking for more people to get involved and help get them going (hint, hint :) ) .

  • Profile Tool: The idea behind the profile tool is to provide access to a library of community created profiles on github, such as Ruby and Android, to quickly set up your development environments and tool chains.
  • Cloud launcher: The cloud launcher enables you to create “microclouds” on your laptop, simulating an at-scale environment, and then deploy that environment seamlessly to the cloud.  Today the launcher utilizes Linux Containers to model your environment on your laptop and then uses Juju to jettison that environment to the cloud.  The launcher project on github will allow for community expansion on this concept using different technologies and approaches.

How did we get here?

As I mentioned at the beginning, project Sputnik began as a skunkworks effort.  It was made possible by internal incubation fund designed to bring wacky ideas from around the company to life in order to tap innovation that might be locked up in people’s heads. 

Just weeks after the basic concept was greenlighted by the innovation team, it was publically announced as a pilot project at the Ubuntu developer summit.  The big focus of our efforts, particularly in the beginning, has been to work with Canonical to make sure that we had the appropriate drivers for all functionality including the pesky touchpad.

From the start, the idea was to conduct project Sputnik out in the open, soliciting and leveraging direct input from developers via our Project Sputnik StormSession, comments on this blog, threads on the Sputnik tech center forum as well as the project Sputnik beta program.  In fact it was the tremendous interest in the beta program that convinced us to take Project Sputnik from pilot to product.

I would like to give a special shout out to the beta cosmonauts who signed on.  They were an intrepid lot who were patient and diligent working through issues to help make sure that when we went to production we had a product that developers would want.

Where do we go from here?

The next big thing for XPS 13 developer edition is availability outside the United States.  We are working with teams inside of Dell to make this so as quickly as we can.  The other direction we are looking at potentially expanding is offering a bigger beefier platform for developers.  The XPS 13 is perfect for those who want an ultra light and mobile system but we have heard from a bunch of devs who would also like an offering that was more workstation-like with a bigger screen and more RAM.

Today is a very proud moment for our team, putting together an official Dell offering for developers with their input and suggestions through out the process.  Stay tuned for more to come!

 Pau for now…


Project Sputnik – Beta Cosmonauts chosen

August 27, 2012

First of all, I would like to thank all the applicants to the Project Sputnik beta program for their patience.  Since we announced the program last month we have been working on implementation, traveling mostly uncharted waters here at Dell.  After working through countless details and seeing what could actually be done in a timely and supportable manner, we have come up with our list of Beta cosmonauts.

The Beta Cosmonauts

We had hoped to make the beta program worldwide, but after digging in we found that the resources needed to execute on it turned out to be more than our little Dell/Canonical team could handle.  As a result we have decided to narrow our Beta effort to the United States.  From those applicants from the US, which represented close to half of the total number of applicants, we have selected 455 people.

It wasn’t easy to narrow the list but we picked people who represent a cross section of the developer population from start ups to large companies to universities.  They represent a wide variety of skills and experience and are the people who we feel will be most vocal and participatory and who best represent the Sputnik ethos.

What they get – Updated Aug 30

Tomorrow we will send out the emails to everyone in the program letting them know whether they have been selected or not.  Those selected, and who are still interested in participating, will be able to purchase the high-end XPS13 at $1,199 rather than $1,499*.   As the program continues we will continue to refine the software.  In return…

*Update Aug 30: We took the feedback re the desire for a deeper discount and went back to see if there was any more cost we could drive out the base price.  We found a couple of places and were able to lower the base price from $1,499 to $1,349.99.  Applying the 20% discount to this we are now able to offer the system to Beta cosmonauts at $1,079.99 ($120 less than before.  It’s not a huge difference but I assume every little bit counts).

What we are asking of them

  • Load the software: While we had hoped to be able to offer the beta systems with Ubuntu pre-loaded this has turned out to be a lot more difficult than we had thought and would require shifting resources from our launch in the fall.  As a result, unfortunately the systems will come with Windows pre-loaded.  All the Beta cosmonauts will need to do is follow the directions for installing Ubuntu as listed on the Canonical page.
  • Be vocal and transparent:  We want the cosmonauts to blog and tweet (hashtag #ProjectSputnik) about their experience as a beta tester, but if asked or when appropriate disclose that they received a discount from Dell.
  • Use it and contribute:  As beta testers we want the cosmonauts to use the system, try things out, file bugs and share their experience with us and each other on the project Sputnik Forum.  It would also be awesome if they could even contribute a profile or two when we make the profile tool available.
  • Support: given that this is a beta program we won’t have official support for the hardware or software.  That being said we will try our best to help out the cosmonauts via the forum and bug tracker.

Thanks again to everyone who applied to the program.  Dell and Canonical are very excited to hear what people think of the systems and learn what we can do to make them better.

Key links

Pau for now…


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…


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