Desktop Linux: Open source makes a big stride as Lenovo certifies its workstations for two Linux distros

From this month, Lenovo is offering full certification for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Ubuntu LTS operating system across its ThinkStation and ThinkPad P portfolio.

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Lenovo is looking to make Linux a more visible part of its product line-up after announcing full certification for its entire ThinkStation and ThinkPad P workstation series. Starting this month, the manufacturer will offer end-to-end support for both the Ubuntu LTS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) distributions.

Historically, Lenovo has only certified a select range of Linux distributions for a limited set of devices. But with the once-niche operating system now seeing an increase in demand, the device manufacturer is looking to expand its product portfolio to cater for those who prefer open-source software over the more locked-down platforms offered by Microsoft and Apple.

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"Now that these users are making their way out of the proverbial shadows and onto the enterprise floor, the demand is high for an out-of-the-box solution that removes the barrier for deployment of enterprise-grade hardware within a Linux software ecosystem," said Rob Herman, general manager and executive director of the Workstation & Client AI Group at Lenovo.

Starting with ThinkPad P series workstations before rolling out to Lenovo's ThinkStation series over the course of the summer, Lenovo will offer "full end-to-end support – from security patches and updates to better secure and verify hardware drivers, firmware and bios optimizations," for the Linux distros. A preloaded OEM version of Ubuntu LTS will also be offered.

Device drivers will also be upstreamed directly to the Linux kernel in order to maintain stability and compatibility of Red Hat and Ubuntu-loaded workstations. Beyond that, Lenovo has committed to providing full web support, dedicated Linux forums, configuration guidance and more.

"By certifying our entire portfolio of ThinkStation and ThinkPad P Series workstations, we are prioritizing the needs of specialized end-users and helping to ensure our workstations will deliver the best possible out-of-the-box Linux experience – increasing the flexibility of users across all industries," said Herman.

According to figures referenced by Lenovo, more than 250 million computers are sold each year, of which roughly 7.2 million users are using Linux.

While that 2.87% doesn't represent a huge chunk of market share, it's enough for OEMs like Lenovo and Dell, which already sells Linux-based "Developer Editions" of its devices, to realize this offers a solid market opportunity.

Lenovo recently partnered with the Fedora Project, in a pilot that will see the Fedora Workstation distro preloaded on ThinkPad P1 Gen2, ThinkPad P53 and ThinkPad X1 Gen8 devices. 

The manufacturer noted that, while many choose to customize their own machines by booting a Linux OS onto a blank PC or wiping the existing operating system, this isn't ideal in terms of system stability and compatibility within enterprises.

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It can also cause  headaches for IT departments lacking specialist knowledge of Linux, making troubleshooting and device management a complicated affair.

"Lenovo's Linux preloads reduce end-user complexity, giving IT managers more visibility and autonomy over devices in their network, in addition to integrated support from Lenovo, Red Hat and Ubuntu," said Herman.

"By certifying our entire portfolio of ThinkStation and ThinkPad P Series workstations, we are prioritizing the needs of specialized end-users and helping to ensure our workstations will deliver the best possible out-of-the-box Linux experience – increasing the flexibility of users across all industries." 

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