Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

are partnering to develop and sell software that makes it easier for large businesses to manage their servers, the two companies announced Monday.

The partnership will help position both companies against traditional systems vendors such as

Hewlett Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

and

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

, and will also give Microsoft another weapon in its ongoing war against Linux, a free operating system rapidly gaining popularity in business.

The companies are integrating Dell OpenManage 4 systems management software with Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003. The companies claim that the integrated software will allow network mangers to update system software, operating systems or applications with a single click of the mouse.

Large businesses frequently modify software on hundreds of servers at a time -- to install security patches, for example -- and although doing so automatically is hardly new, the companies hope to convince customers that they will save significant amounts of time and money by using the integrated platform. Another benefit: closer integration between software from Dell and Microsoft will, in theory, improve compatibility and reduce bugs.

During a press conference to announce the partnership, Dell CEO Kevin Rollins said that his company, the only major PC vendor that does not sell at least some computers with microprocessors from

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

, may add AMD's latest chips to its lineup. "We're looking on AMD much more favorably now," he said. He stopped short of saying that Dell and AMD have actually struck a deal, but his tone, and the fact that he repeated a statement that

moved the markets last week, make an agreement seem quite likely.

For the moment, however, industry-leader

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

is the only vendor supplying microprocessors to Dell.