Containerizing an old school Dell application

November 24, 2015

About a year ago Senior Linux engineer Jose De la Rosa had heard so much Docker and container-mania that he thought he’d find out what the fuss was all about.  Jose started looking around for an app within Dell that he could containerize and came across Dell’s OpenManage Server Administrator (OMSA).  In case you’re wondering, OMSA is an in house application used to manage and monitor Dell’s PowerEdge servers.  Rather than being a micro-service based application, OMSA is an old school legacy app.

To hear how Jose tackled the task, why, and what he learned, check out the following video (also take a look at the deck below that he presented at the Austin Docker meet up).

Here’s the deck Jose presented at the Austin Docker Meetup back in September.

For more info about what Jose and the Dell Linux engineering team are doing in this space, check out

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…

Flocker plugin for Dell storage up on GitHub

November 12, 2015

Today ClusterHQ and Dell announced the availability on GitHub of code that allows ClusterHQ’s Flocker to integrate with the Dell Storage SC Series. What this does is allow developer and operations teams to use existing storage to create portable container-level storage for Docker.

Before we dive into the back story on how the plugin came to be, take a listen to ClusterHQ’s founder and CTO Luke Marsden.  Luke explains Flocker, how its being used and talks about the Dell/Flocker driver.

How the plugin came about

Rather than coming from an internal planning process or committee, the idea for a Flocker plugin came from Dell storage coder Sean McGinnis. Sean was looking for ways to make Dell Storage an infrastructure component in an open source environment. Some time back he noticed that Flocker seemed to be a good integration point to allow the use of Dell Storage for users looking to move to containerized solutions.

Sean saw a lot of overlap with what his team was already doing with their OpenStack Cinder driver (both written in Python, with some common storage management concepts). He realized that that they could reuse the majority of this code for a Flocker driver by providing the Flocker driver interface to translate Flocker calls into our storage API. Along with Ian Anderson (another Dell Storage engineer) the pair engaged ClusterHQ to explore requirements for brining Storage Center support to Flocker.

Sean and Ian then worked internally to implement our Flocker driver, open source it and put the code up on GitHub.

The code, storage and beyond

-> You can check out the code and play with it for yourself here on GitHub.

Going forward the team is looking to expand Dell Storage’s open source offerings hosted on GitHub. They see a lot of potential for containers and will continue working in this space to make sure enterprise customers can leverage their storage arrays to support these developing environments.

Beyond storage, Dell is looking to start open sourcing more code and putting it up on GitHub.  Don’t expect a deluge right off the bat but hopefully over time you will start seeing more and more.

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…

Incorporating DevOps into the development of Dell’s Active System Manager

November 5, 2015

As Dell as a company continues to evolve we have started implementing DevOps practices in our software development.   Dell IT is employing DevOps as are some of our product development teams.

In the following video, systems engineer Chris Gully explains how Dell’s Active System Manager has incorporated DevOps into its development. (the audio could be a bit better so you’ll have to crank it up a bit for Chris :)

Some of the ground Chris covers:

  • What is the Dell Active Systems Manager (ASM)
  • Putting the ASM code up on GitHub
  • Their path from Dev -> IT -> Ops -> Customer -> Feedback
  • What were some of the issues the team had to overcome when implementing

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…

ContainerCon: How Google helps developers with Kubernetes

August 26, 2015

Last week at Container/LinuxCon I conducted  a handful of video interviews.  Video number three stars Brian Dorsey from Google. Brian works with developers to get them up to speed with Kubernetes.

Here’s what Brian had to say:

Some of the ground Brian covers

  • Brian’s focus on cloud-building developers, specifically those working on Kubernetes
  • Key partners such as Red Hat, CoreOS, Kismatic and many, many more
  • How Brian and the team reach developers  (events, blogs, videos, sample code…)
  • Where he sees Kubernetes going over the next year

Extra-credit reading

4th gen Dell XPS 13 developer edition available!

April 9, 2015

I would first like to thank everyone for their patience and support as we worked through various bugs that crept up.  This has taken longer than we would have liked but I’m happy to say that as of today, the Dell XPS 13 developer edition is now available in the United States, Canada and Europe!

A short history

As many of you may known, the developer edition began its life as Project Sputnik.  Funded by an Image result for images sputnikinternal incubation fund set up to drive innovation within Dell, Sputnik went from open-ended exploratory project to official product within nine months.

The entire program was conducted in the open in order to identify what you — developers — demanded in an ideal Ubuntu-based laptop. It was also your interest and support that drove Sputnik from project to product.

At the beginning of the year we launched an expansion to the line, the Precision M3800 developer edition, and today we are announcing the availability of the 4th generation of the XPS 13 developer edition.

General specifications of new Dell XPS 13 developer edition (see configs below. Note we realize that some of the tech specs are incorrect, they are in the queue to be fixed.  We made the decision to go ahead launch since we have had so much interest and we wanted to make it orderable as soon as possible)

  • Ubuntu 14.04*
  • 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i5-5200U or i7-5500U
  • 13.3-inch infinity display
  • 8GB Dual Channel DDR3L at 1600MHz
  • Intel (R) HD Graphics 5500
  • 1 Year ProSupport with Next Business Day Onsite Service
  • 2.8 lbs

* We recommend that users use the factory shipped Ubuntu image with the XPS 13 with at least BIOS A02.  We do however recognize that users will want to use other Linux distributions, Ubuntu versions or kernel versions so we’ve assembled a list to indicate problems users should expect with other distros.  In general you will have the best experience on the latest in development distributions with newer kernels.  For more information and instructions please see the technical notes at the end of this post.

US/Canada configurations:


  • 128GB, Non Touch FHD (1920×1080)
  • 256GB, Touch TL QHD (2560×1440)


  • 256GB, Touch TL QHD+  (3200×1800)
  • 512GB, Touch TL QHD+  (3200×1800)

Europe configurations/Countries

The XPS 13 developer edition is available in both the consumer and business channels in the following countries:

  • Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The United Kingdom

European configurations

  • i5/8GB — 256GB, Touch TL FHD (1920×1080)
  • i7/8GB — 512GB, Touch TL QHD+  (3200×1800)

A big shout out

I wanted to give recognition and a big thanks to the members of our small but mighty Sputnik core team: Mario Limonciello, Jared Dominguez, Amber Huang and Amit Bhutani.  These are the folks who have worked their butts off and made this a reality!

Technical Notes:

Updated April 16, 2015: new information with regards to current status quo from some people who have used Debian as well as 4.0 updates.

Updating to BIOS A02 or later

  1. Download the executable from and save it to a FAT32 formatted USB disk.
  2. Reboot the computer.
  3. At the Dell POST screen, press F12 to bring up the BIOS boot menu.
  4. Select the option to flash the BIOS.
  5. In the popup menu, select your USB disk and select the BIOS executable.
  6. Follow on screen directions.

Systems shipped with A01 or A00 BIOS

If you purchased the machine with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and it contains BIOS A00 or BIOS A01, please update the BIOS to A02 or later.  If you choose to run a kernel version earlier than 3.15 you should also append the following to your kernel command line:


If you machine was shipped with A02 or later, you will not need this kernel command line change.  The developer edition units will ship with A02 or later.

Ubuntu 14.04

Ubuntu 14.04 includes kernel 3.13.  The touchpad will run in PS2 mode and the soundcard will run in HDA mode.  Currently (4/15) out of the box the HDA microphone will not work, and you will need some packages from the factory shipped image to make it work properly.  The patches needed for microphone support are available here:


Ubuntu 14.10

Ubuntu 14.10 includes kernel 3.16.

With BIOS A00 or BIOS A01 the touchpad will run in I2C mode and the sound will not function.  Please update to at least BIOS A02 and the touchpad will run in I2C mode and the sound in HDA mode.  Currently (4/15) the microphone will not work and you will these patches for microphone support:



Ubuntu 15.04

Ubuntu 15.04 includes kernel 3.19.

With BIOS A00 or BIOS A01 the touchpad will run in I2C mode and the sound will not function.  Please update to at least BIOS A02 and the touchpad will run in I2C mode and the sound in HDA mode.  (4/15) All of the relevant patches have been backported and all functions will work out of the box.

Fedora 21

Fedora 21 includes kernel version 3.17.  With BIOS A00 or BIOS A01 the touchpad will run in I2C mode and the sound will not function.  Please update to at least BIOS A02 and the touchpad will run in I2C mode and the sound in HDA mode.  Currently (4/15) the microphone will not work.  You can track the backporting of the patches here:

Debian 7.0

We recommend that Debian 7.0 users upgrade to a kernel 4.0 and apply those two patches.  The above notations will apply to Debian 7.0 then.

Debian 8.0

Debian 8.0 will use kernel 3.16.  With BIOS A00 or BIOS A01 the touchpad will operate in I2C mode and sound will not work.  The system will fail to suspend and resume due to a bug in the touchpad driver.  This patch:

Will need to be backported for it to work properly.

With BIOS A02 the touchpad will operate in I2C mode and the sound in HDA mode.  Currently (4/8) the microphone will not work.  The patches needed for microphone support are available here:


We recommend for Debian 8.0 users upgrade to kernel 4.0 and apply the two extra microphone patches.

Also, there are some problems with the xserver-xorg-video-intel package today with Debian 8.0.  You’ll presently (4/15) need to backport from experimental to resolve them.  More details are available here:

Other Notes

Extra credit reading

  • Designed for developers – Dell launches two new Ubuntu-based systems — Ubuntu insights

Pau for now…

Available in Europe: Precision M3800 developer edition

February 16, 2015

At the end of January we announced the launch of the Dell M3800-ubuntuPrecision M3800 mobile workstation, developer edition.  This beefy complement to the existing XPS 13 developer edition is the direct result of feedback from the community who have been asking for a larger system.

Over the past few weeks we have been adding EMEA availability.   Here is the list of countries where the M3800 developer edition is available online.  For those countries that don’t appear here, the system is available offline by calling a sales representative.

M3800 developer edition — European online availability

We are currently working on rolling out the M3800 developer edition in the Asia Pacific/Japan region as well.  Stay tuned!

Extra-credit reading

  • Welcome the Dell Precision M3800 mobile workstation, developer edition – Barton’s Blog
  • Update: Dell XPS 13 laptop, developer edition – Sputnik Gen 4 – Barton’s Blog

Pau for now…

Welcome the Dell Precision M3800 mobile workstation, developer edition

January 27, 2015

Update March 17:  Great  review in Network World — Review: Dell’s Ubuntu-powered M3800 Mobile Workstation is a desktop destroyer

Since the planning stages of project Sputnik over two years ago we wanted to offer two versions of our developer-focused systems.  The idea was to have both an ultra mobile laptop and a beefier workstation offering, a beauty and the beast line up if you will.  Due to the need to focus our resources however, we worked with the community to first build out the laptop, delivering the XPS 13 laptop, developer edition.Soyuz

Moving towards the beast

The first year after launching the XPS 13, we got a steady stream of requests for a bigger system.  This wasn’t lost on team member Jared Dominguez who decided to work on his own time with the Dell Precision M3800 mobile edition and put together instructions on how get Ubuntu running on the system.

A little over a year ago with the launch of the 3rd generation of the XPS13 developer edition we also announced its “unofficial big brother” and provided Jared’s instructions.  We received a lot of great feedback but there were also folks asking when we were going to deliver an officially supported version of the M3800.  What we told the community was — like the initial project Sputnik offering, if we got enough positive feedback — we might be able to offer it as an official pre-installed system.

A thread was started on the Sputnik Forum for people to express their interest in an official system.  We got a tremendous amount of positive feedback and as a result we listened to our customers and have added the M3800 to our developer edition lineup of Ubuntu-based systems.

Introducing the Dell Precision M3800 mobile workstation, Developer Edition

One of the main features people were looking for in the Precision M3800 was 16 GB of RAM.  The new Ubuntu-based M3800 introduced today, has that and a whole lot more:

Dell Precision M3800 mobile workstation, dev edition – Key features

  • Preloaded Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
  • Next generation of the world’s thinnest and lightest true 15-inch mobile workstation
  • Starting weight of just 4.15lbs (1.88kg) and a form factor that is less than 0.71 inches (18mm) thick
  • Fourth generation Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, professional grade NVIDIA Quadro K1100M graphics, and up to 16GB of memory
  • 4K Ultra HD (3840×2160) screen option
  • Availability: worldwide

Unfortunately, one of the features that wont be available right out of the gate is thunderbolt support.  As Jared explains in his blog:

Because our factory Ubuntu installs only ship Ubuntu LTS releases, we were not able to ship with Thunderbolt support. However, thanks to the hardware-enablement stack in Ubuntu, starting with upcoming Ubuntu 14.04.2, you will be able to upgrade your kernel to add some Thunderbolt support. We plan to be working with Canonical to recertify the Precision M3800 with official Thunderbolt support.

How do I get one

You can get to the M3800 developer edition by going to the Dell Precision M3800 Mobile Workstation page: and choosing the system labeled “Fully Customizable” on the far left.  Or you can go directly to configurator, where under “Operating System” you can select Ubuntu 14.04 SP1 and away you go!


What about the additional software?

This time around we went with the vanilla image of the most recent LTS release (14.04).  A vanilla image was actually one of the top requests when we gathered input on our initial Storm session.

Since the original launch we have been working on a profile tool and Cloud launcher.  We are still working on these but it’s been a bit more difficult than we originally thought :).  Stay tuned for more news on this.

Will there be a new XPS 13 developer edition?

You bet!  The 4th generation of the XPS 13 laptop, developer edition will be available soon.  It will based on the the new XPS 13 laptop that debuted earlier this month.

A Big Thanks

Thanks to everyone in the community for the tremendous support of the Sputnik program.  Without your support, this program would not be possible!

 Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…


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