- By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols -
It's not an easy job, but Hewlett-Packard is determined to support no fewer than
five major operating systems: Linux, HP-UX, Tru64, OpenVMS and
Windows. Dig a bit deeper and it's even more complicated with three
main flavors of Linux -- Debian, Red Hat, and UnitedLinux -- and at least
as many versions of Windows -- Windows 2000, XP and the up coming .NET
Of course, it's only HP-UX, Tru64 and OpenVMS that HP really has
to worry about. The Linuxes have their respective companies,
Microsoft has Windows, and smaller supported systems like OpenUnix
(formerly known as UnixWare) and OpenServer are Caldera's job. Still,
that leaves HP with two major Unixes all its own.
How will the company manage to support them? Good question. Dan Kusnetzky,
IDC's vice president of system software research, isn't sure HP can
pull it off.
Kusnetzky says, "They have two world class Unix offerings with
different levels of strength in two areas. Both are the products of
at least one decade, if not two, of hard work to enhance them in
different ways." And, they've gone in different directions. For
example, both HP-UX and Tru64 "have strong clustering enhancements
but there are two ways to approach clustering, and HP-UX has taken the
share nothing road, while DEC/Compaq with Tru64 took the shared
On one level, he continues, "they can't afford to keep both, but the
installed base has said that if they kill our Unix we'll walk away."
And, he adds, it hard to walk away from HP-UX with its 12% of
shipping Unix or Tru64 with its 4%."
Mike Wardley, HP-UX marketing manager, agrees and says that's why HP
isn't walking from either. Instead, Wardley explains, "what we're
trying to do is to deliver on all of HP and Compaq's OS promises made
prior to the Compaq merger all the way out to 2005. Ultimately, HP-UX
will be our Unix offering and at some stage Tru64 will go away." But,
even then, Wardley adds, "while the last set of enhancements to Tru64
will be made in 2004/2005 we plan on supporting it out to 2011." Why?
"Because that's what our customers want and we have a very customer-centric approach."
He may be right to take that approach. In talking with three Tru64 Unix
administrators not a one of them would consider switching over to HP-
UX today. As loyal as any Linux fan to his favorite distribution,
these administrators simply won't walk away from their mainstay
Kusnetzky adds: "HP has a wonderful plan, but from a
financial analyst viewpoint, you're saying that you're going to
manage to keep both of them. They can say that they plan to do it,
but which one will get the funding when the finances are cut? Will
they support two badly or let one slide?" He expects that "Tru64 revenue
stream will be smaller and HP will put money where the market is.
That translates into money to HP-UX."
While both systems will get full support, new changes are in both
systems' future. Beginning in 2003, HP will start migrating Tru64
features to HP-UX. By 2004, TruCluster is supposed to be running on
HP-UX and a complete migration tool set for moving from Tru64 to HP-
UX should be in place.
At the same time, HP plans on moving Tru64 from the ever-so-dying
Alpha chip family to Intel's Itanium 2 processors. This will give die-
hard Tru64 users a hardware platform to operate from even as time
slowly brings the curtain down on aging Alpha servers. Even so, HP
executives think most Tru64 customers will still wait until 2007 to
move. HP is doing its best to insure that the move is to HP-UX 11i v3 and
not, say, .NET Server or IBM's AIX.
At the same time, both operating systems will be getting Linux
affinities to enable administrators to compile and run Linux-
compatible source code. Eventually, by 2005, HP-UX will be able to
run Linux binaries.
This is part of a broader trend, which Kusnetzky likes to call the
real unification of Unix to Linux. Wardley agrees to an extent, but
while any Linux application will eventually run on HP-UX, he still sees a place
According to Wardley, "Linux will take over file/print world period,
and Microsoft may be the losers to Linux." But without the fancy
features of high-end enterprise computing such as self-tuning, Linux will stay separate from HP-UX, he predicts. He foresees HP-UX on the high-end with Linux on the low end and edge servers.
And what about OpenVMS? Mike Balma, Linux business strategist for
HP, says, "OpenVMS will also be moved over to Itanium 2 and
that will extend VMS' life until at least 2006." It may be longer.
HP is continuing to push OpenVMS 7.3-1 with new minor releases
throughout the rest of year and beyond for both the Alpha and VMS
Still, while it may be hard for HP to support so many systems, as
Kusnetzky says, "it's a grand plan, and it will be wonderful if they can do it,
but I'm not sure the reality of budgets will make it impossible for them to do it
all." That said, HP is determined to try.