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Christine Martino, VP, Open Source And Linux Organization, HP

Christine Martino HP is one of the largest vendors of open source and Linux solutions on the planet today.

Beyond just selling and supporting Linux, HP also contributes to open source development in myriad ways. From the OpenLDAP project to wireless extensions for Linux and everything in between.

HP recently unveiled the Open Source Integrated Portfolio (OSIP), the latest of its open source efforts that is comprised of HP Open Source Middleware Stacks (OSMS).

Sitting at the top of HP's Linux and Open Source efforts is Christine Martino vice president of Open Source and Linux Organization (OSLO).

Martino took over the position formerly held by Martin Fink, though Martino still reports to Fink who still remains involved in HP's Linux efforts. Internetnews.com recently caught up with Martino to talk about her role and her views on HP's Linux effort and how they stack up against the competition.

Q: What are you doing differently than Fink? What hasn't HP done before that you'll do now?

I have not come in with a new strategy agenda. I think we have had exactly the right strategy around Linux and open source and the things that we're doing around creating a level playing field across the three OS's that HP supports -- Windows, HP-UX and Linux.

What I bring to the party and the difference between Martin Fink and I is that I have a much more rigorous business focus, I've managed other [profits and losses] at HP and other businesses and I'm a bit more operations whereas Martin is a bit more visionary.

So I think what I bring to the party is really enhancing how HP treats Linux and Open Source as a business within the company, which ultimately allows us to invest even more to provide value to our customers.

Q: What are the key contributions that HP is currently making to open source development?

We do many of our contributions as a matter of course. I think that makes a big difference especially to very large customers. If they are going to trust their whole IT environment from a support perspective to a vendor, they want to know that that vendor is a contributing member of the community, knows how to work with the community, knows how to submit changes and knows how to influence.

That's a huge thing we bring to the table even for something as simple as selling Linux support, which seems like a no-brainer. But it's not if you're a really big company and you want to have the confidence that the vendor you're paying for support can really do it.

Q: What is HP's Linux distribution strategy beyond just Red Hat and Novell's enterprise distributions? Will there be another Linux distribution that HP will be supporting at some point in the near future on a global basis?

I think that's a good possibility. We actually do quite a bit with other distributions besides Red Hat and Novell that we don't even give ourselves enough credit for.

We say we support Red Hat and Novell but we do a lot of those same elements around Debian, around Mandriva, Asianux. So one thing that we're doing right now is figuring out a tiered strategy of how we do support so it's not so black and white, yes or no.

Q: What about support for Novell's OpenSUSE or Red Hat's Fedora distributions? Is that something that HP could potentially support, as well?

I think it would depend on customer need and where the market is going. It seems a little risky for me to say, "Yes we're going to offer support for Fedora." I wouldn't do that to Red Hat because they are a good partner. Debian or something that is community owned, that could definitely be in our future.

Q: What do you think HP is doing differently than IBM in terms of supporting Linux, and what do you think you're doing better?

I think what we're doing differently is offering customers true choice. We don't have a hidden agenda, we don't have a pre-determined destination for them as IBM does with WebSphere.

That enables us from a broad open source perspective to be a more viable partner that is offering customers choice within a hidden agenda. I think that is really the core difference.

IBM is clearly using Gluecode as an onramp to Websphere , not that there is anything wrong with WebSphere. It works with HP systems, as well. But the point is if customers want to go open source, they may be doing that to get away from proprietary vendor lock-in.

I think that is clearly the biggest difference. That we offer a true choice from an operating system perspective and now with the middleware stack and our ability to put together configurations that customers want.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?

The biggest challenge is the business challenge of finding ways to leverage Linux and open source and create viable opportuntieis for HP. We're challenged with challenging ourselves on how we can create new offerings and new ways of packaging this so our customers can really take advantage of this.