This could be a very compelling partnership - can MS kill it off?
Good grief - the Micro-shills are in here quick.
Couple of points from someone who's adminned a couple of these distros.
Ubuntu LTS has been supported extremely well on the desktop - we've had laptops running 10.04 flawlessly - updates have all worked perfectly. To the extent that I stick to the LTS versions on laptops for myself or co-workers and for other machines I've set up for friends, family etc. They don't care - all they know is that it works all the time - doesn't chuck up errors, doesn't slow down etc. The nice thing for me is that after the install I don't get called - effectively the same reliability as Macs.
SUSE/SLES is way, way behind as a distro - compared to Debian it is simply nowhere near as good. It needs some serious investment to get up to parity - and I doubt it will ever happen. It's kinda OK for running the basics - but for most sysadmins the tools/apps/services are simply not in the package repositories. As I said - Debian is so far ahead it shows how stagnated SLES has become. One thing SLES can offer is that it can almost be used by non-linux admins as they can just stay stay inside Yast - but Yast ain't perfect.
The last time I used pure RH was a while back but it was fine and well supported - provided you were happy to pay the bucks. Best of luck to RH - to me they have done everything right and provide an excellent service.
Which leaves Ubuntu - based on Debian - on Dell as a fantastic option for enterprises who want managed Linux boxes. First off - it's not SLES. Second off - it might be a more cost effective than RH. At least it should provide some competition. Thirdly - most importantly for experienced sysadmins - IT'S DEBIAN! As Arthur Shappey would say - BRILLIANT!
So, a Debian based distribution with professional support from Canonical and Dell - this could be very compelling if it's done well. I especially like the idea of the tie-up between the hardware and software guys - that could work well for the client as they can let the the two support sides to sort things out between themselves.
I know of one enterprise where the head of web would be very interested in moving from HP/SLES to Dell/Ubuntu. In fact, we ourselves buy HP exclusively because it has the best Debian support - if Dell are working closely with Ubuntu (which means good support for Debian hardware-wise) then we might consider them again for our server purchases.
Now for the main question. How hard will MS now lean on Dell to kill this off? How much leverage do they still have?
If Dell move ahead with this it will seriously show that MS are losing their stranglehold and are slipping downwards. For Dell it's the chance to get big in the Linux server space - but MS may threaten to take Dell down by lowering the Win7/Win8/Svr2008 discount rates. If they don't threaten to lower the rates then it might show that MS need Dell more than Dell need MS.
Remember, Dell have periodically released Ubuntu laptops but this has been kept low key. I get the feeling that someone inside Dell has been trying to get into the Ubuntu/Linux space for years - maybe now they've been given a high position in the server division.
Finally - and this could be the reason the shills have been so fast and furious. In a world running on web servers (and where clients only need a browser) this could be part of a serious paradigm shift type problem for MS. The last thing they want is Dell providing fantastic and supported servers running Debian.