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I'm looking to buy a Dell server, I was ready to pick the Dell Poweredge 510, though I didn't find any resource saying that it supported Debian. One of my requirements is that Debian is supported, what I mean when I say supported is, will it be easy to install, or if I can even install the OS.

Is there a resource page where I can find whether or not I can install Debian on this server?

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closed as too localized by Sven, pauska, Shane Madden, John Gardeniers, Ward Feb 10 '12 at 4:44

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How do you define "supported"? –  Shane Madden Feb 9 '12 at 17:19
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Define supported? Do you mean it will run, or do you mean you can call Dell with problems? –  Zoredache Feb 9 '12 at 17:19
    
Sorry, just solved that. –  El Developer Feb 9 '12 at 17:25
    
I've always been under the impression that software supports hardware, not the other way around. It would therefore make more sense to ask if Debian supports the Dell machine. –  John Gardeniers Feb 9 '12 at 20:54

4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I have several R510 running Debian without a problem, so i'd say this server is "supported"

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What's the specific version of Debian you are running and if possible what are the specs of your server. Thanks :D –  El Developer Feb 9 '12 at 17:26
    
Both, lenny and squeeze, more specific: 2.6.32-5 and 2.6.26-2-amd6. They are all the same spec: CPUs Xeon E5620, 8GB RAM, PERC H700 Controller –  Niko S P Feb 9 '12 at 17:30
    
@NikoSP what ethernet controller do you have? is it actually supported (including firmware) with an official debian installer? Or do you have to use an unofficial installer or add unofficial packages for the firmware? –  stew Feb 9 '12 at 18:26
    
@stew 03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Broadcom Corporation NetXtreme II BCM5708 Gigabit Ethernet (rev 12) 07:00.0 Ethernet controller: Broadcom Corporation NetXtreme II BCM5708 Gigabit Ethernet (rev 12) I did not install anything, the debian installer took care of everything. –  Niko S P Feb 9 '12 at 18:58
    
that will be the bnx2 driver, requiring a non-free firmware package named firmware-bnx2 which isn't in debian, which is going to be a problem with a current official debian installer. so see Zoredache's answer below –  stew Feb 9 '12 at 19:15

When it comes to running Debian, or any Linux, on a server generally you need to look at two components. Will the network adapters be supported, and will the storage controllers be supported under Linux. On servers you generally don't care about all multimedia devices (video/sound/etc) that are more of PITA to get working.

The fact that there is a RedHat choice strongly indicates that it is possible to run Linux on a given piece of hardware, but there is a chance that a particular version of Linux will not have a driver compiled or built for a given kernel. You can almost always with a little effort, backport a newer kernel, re-compile a driver.

It is quite a bit more difficult to get a storage controller working over a network card. If the distro you are looking at doesn't have support for a given storage controller, you may be looking at re-mastering the installer, and building a kernel with support from another system. If the network isn't supported out of the box, you usually just have to get the source onto the box after it is installed, then compile a kernel module.

Since Redhat is an option you can usually go look at the drivers/downloads page, and see what they offer for downloads. Do they offer the source for a custom kernel? Do they offer the source for a storage/network driver? Those may be signs that it might be a bit more difficult to get Debian running.

Dell usually offers many different choices for Storage controllers so the model number alone is not enough to get a definitive answer. Usually you need to decide which storage controller options fit your needs, then verify that they will be usable with the kernel you will be using.

One other thing I will point out is that since Debian is very idealist about software freedom they have separated a lot of firmware out of the kernel the deliver as part of the standard installer. This may mean that, while it can work, it will not work with the standard installer. You may want to just make a point of always using the installer they have that includes the non-free firmware. http://wiki.debian.org/Firmware

Another highly anecdotal point, I have more issues with Broadcom network adapters under Debian then Intel NICs, that doesn't mean a given Broadcom nic won't work for you though, I am just saying I have gotten to a point where I always choose the Intel option on the server configurator.

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Official Support for the Debian distribution is not provided by Dell. However I have been running Dell Servers with various Debian versions for the past several years. They have been very good about supporting the Hardware.

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The "Tech Specs" tab says:

Microsoft® Windows® Small Business Server 2011
Microsoft® Windows Server® 2008 SP2, x86/x64 (x64 includes Hyper-V®)
Microsoft® Windows Server® 2008 R2 SP1, x64 (includes Hyper-V v2)
Windows® HPC Server 2008 R2
Novell® SUSE® Linux® Enterprise Server
Red Hat® Enterprise Linux®

I've run a R510 with Ubuntu without any issues. If you mean "it'll run" when you say "supported", yep it'll be fine.

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Generally anything that runs on a commodity distro will run any commodity distro. Thus, seeing SUSE and RHEL, I'd say you're @ElDeveloper is probably going to be ok. –  Jeff Ferland Feb 9 '12 at 17:22
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"Supported" has different definitions to different people. Some mean "it will run". Others mean "it won't void my warranty". Others mean "the vendor will help fix bugs I encounter with the OS". –  ceejayoz Feb 9 '12 at 17:34
    
@JeffFerland This is not a good assumtion to make. Debian is much stricter about requiring software to be free in order to be part of the distro. He's likely going to find that debian stripped the non-free firmware he needs for his network drivers. This doesn't mean he can't run debian. but it probably means he can't use an official debian installer without going out to find non-debian firmware packages. –  stew Feb 9 '12 at 18:30

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