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HP Backs Debian Linux to The Hilt

HP  today said it will support Debian GNU/Linux on its ProLiant and BladeSystem servers, adding to a short list of Linux distribution support that includes Novell SUSE and Red Hat.

The last major Debian release, code-named Sarge, came out in June 2005 after much delay. The next release, code-named Etch, is on track for a release late this year or next.

"With Debian, just like with Red Hat and Novell/SUSE, we'll be taking real calls from real customers to address their support needs," Jeffrey Wade, worldwide marketing manager of open source and Linux at HP told internetnews.com.

"Unlike Dell or IBM's Web site, we're not going to point you to a white paper or some discussion area where you can see how someone else fared installing Debian, we're actually going to take the call."

Though HP will be offering full technical customer support for Debian, it will not be engaging in the same types of marketing activities it does with Red Hat  and Novell .

However, HP's engagement with Debian goes farther than its relationship with Red Hat and Novell/SUSE.

The current president of software in the Public Interest (SPI), a non-profit organization set up by Debian to help people develop and distribute open hardware and software, is HP CTO of Linux Bdale Garbee. Garbee is also a former Debian project leader.

Though HP's formal support for Debian is new, it's involvement with Debian is not. The company has been involved with Debian for over 10 years, according to Wade.

Those solutions include telco, where HP recently announced that it had helped Debian to register against the OSDL Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) 2.0.2 specification.

Wade also noted that HP has been using Debian in its consulting and engagement practice, where it uses the distro for customers that want custom kernel development work.

Debian is also used by HP as an embedded operating system for print server appliances or network-attached storage (NAS)  devices; this way, the company doesn't have to burden the product with the cost of a subscription fee.

And therein lies the rub.

Enterprise Linux distributions from Red Hat and Novell/SUSE carry an annual subscription fee. Debian does not.

By definition, Debian is Free Software.

"You don't always need to have the costs of software subscriptions," Wade explained.

"Technically all of it is free, it's just that the difference in the model for Debian is you wouldn't be paying for the software updates. Customers would just be paying the support cost."

Moreover, HP's Debian customers can use the same update mechanisms available to all non-HP Debian users.

Wade noted that HP Debian will have nothing special beyond the latest set of drivers for hardware that HP produces.

Ubuntu Linux, which is a Debian-derived distribution, has also been getting a lot of attention because it's commercial sponsor, Canonical Inc, announced long term support.

From HP's perspective, it's just another distribution.

Wade explained that although HP works with Canonical to ensure Ubuntu interoperability on its systems, HP does not fully support Ubuntu.