- By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols -
Remember when the only Linux business success story was the Burlington
Coat Factory? Things have changed. And Hewlett-Packard, with budding success stories at the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security
Administration, Boeing, Walt Disney and DreamWorks wants you to
know about it. Whether it's scientific, engineering or animation computing,
HP is deploying Linux.
Why would a company that already has two serious Unix products, HP-UX
and newly acquired Tru64, plus OpenVMS and a strong partnership with
Microsoft, be investing so hard in Linux? Because when HP
hired Bruce Perens, noted Open Source advocate, several years back, the company wasn't doing it just for the public relations value. Company officials were doing it because they believed that Linux would contribute significantly to their bottom line.
And, with IDC predicting that Linux's server market should grow at a rate of
23% a year out to 2006, HP believes that Linux will only continue to add
more revenue in the years ahead.
Judy Chavis, HP's director of Linux marketing, says Linux already comprises 13% of one million HP server operating system shipments, and HP expects that number to grow to the high teens.
But HP doesn't need to sell box sets from its Linux partners, Debian,
UnitedLinux, and, most recently, Red Hat. Instead, HP will find black ink in
its bank statements by supporting and maintaining Linux on its Proliant
server line. As Stacey Quandt, Giga Information Group's Open Source
analyst, observes, "The Compaq relationship has enhanced the ability to
compete in the Linux market." In particular, "the volume shipment aspect
extends HP ability with the Proliant to get into the mass x86 server market."
HP sees this market of small to medium servers running on Intel Pentium
family chips as being important in the long run. Here, HP hopes to keep
existing Proliant customers from moving to Dell because, according to Chavis,
"Dell talks about servers but they aren't good at following through." IBM's
xSeries is also a target.
Looking farther down the server road, HP is a big believer in the Itantium 2
chip family and plans on Linux playing a large role on that platform, probably
as the next generation of Proliant servers. To help make Linux a success
with these 64-bit chips, and bring more customers over to HP's existing 32-
bit Intel offerings, HP will be introducing at LinuxWorld this week "several new express and fixed fee services to help users and ISVs port and migrate Linux" says Mike Ballma, HP's Linux business strategist.
HP does more than just offer Linux for its complete server family, though. It
also offers it on its workstation and PC lines. Unfortunately,
however, you may still have to call to get the operating system of your
choice because most of the online catalogs default to a variety of Windows OS
In the Intel arena, HP, which has had a strong relationship with SuSE, looks to
UnitedLinux and, thanks to Compaq's ongoing relationship with Linux, Red
Hat for help. On the company's PA-RISC architecture, though, it works with Debian.
Debian, normally not mentioned in the Linux business space, has found a
friend in HP thanks to their work on PA-Linux. While the PA-Linux FAQ indicates that HP is
supportive of PA-Linux but letting the Open Source community take the lead
here, Ballma sees this changing. "We have a special relationship with
Debian, and while PA-Linux may not turn out to be strategic from a
commercial viewpoint, on a custom basis we will be putting Debian PA-Linux
on our systems for customers."
At the same time, Ballma says HP-UX and Tru64 will become more and
more friendly to Linux applications. This starts with a continuation of HP's
ongoing efforts to make give these operating systems Linux-friendly
application programming interfaces (API), but eventually HP-UX, at least, will
have Linux-friendly application binary interfaces (ABI), letting one run shrink-
wrapped Linux software, sans source code, on an HP-UX box if such
programs ever exist.
HP isn't just building on Linux's foundations. The company has also
added its own mix of Open Source programs, including Apache and
OpenSSL, TripWire, AMANDA and secure shell, into HP Secure OS Software
So it is on the eve of LinuxWorld's summer 2002 gathering that HP, along with IBM and old-time Unix power Sun, continues to invest yet more time, money, and
resources into Linux.
Coming soon: HP's Unix strategy.