Red Hat and Dell announced a new partnership today that could mark a further expansion of open source software use in the enterprise.

OEM customers looking to Dell for custom products will now have additional open source options. Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss join SUSE as standard choices for Dell OEM.

Red Hat's recently acquired status as the first billion-dollar open source business underlines the importance of open technologies and their growing appeal to a wide variety of firms.

"I think everybody's wanting to have alternatives," says Ron Pugh, Dell executive director and general manager of the company's OEM solutions group for the Americas. "Most of our customers have seen that there are some benefits to Linux use from a time-to-market perspective and working with the open source community."

Among the most important verticals for this new OEM partnership, he added, are telecommunications and security equipment manufacturers. The former industry is "entirely green-field" for Dell, while Red Hat's prominence in the latter area should help boost sales.

"We see this as the next step in companies moving from proprietary architecture to building their own things from the ground up to a commodity solution, and both companies see that we can help each other," according to Pugh.

The deal with Red Hat is part of Dell's ongoing transformation from a pure hardware manufacturer into a vendor of a wide range of business services. The company's recent run of acquisitions have been focused on some of the hottest areas of enterprise technology, including virtualisation and security. Given the increasing popularity of open source - and recent moves by rivals like IBM, which released a line of specialised PowerLinux servers last month - Dell's move emphasises its continuing transition.