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HP Matures Its Linux Strategy

SAN FRANCISCO -- HP said it is taking a mature approach to advancing its Linux culture.

While often standing in the shadow of rival IBM's directions on open-source, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company made a slew of product and services announcements at this week's LinuxWorld designed to show enterprise and consumers that it can hold its own. The company unveiled its first ever Linux notebook, released new Linux Reference Architectures, offered up a new Multi-OS Superdome Server and increased the size of its support and consulting Linux Services Team to 6,500 people.

"Linux is not a boy, not a child. It's grown into an environment that can run any part of the data center," HP Vice President of Linux Martin Fink said at an obvious jab at IBM's Linux marketing. "It's a stage of maturing, and we've reached a state of young adulthood."

Analysts at this week's LinuxWorld celebration are noting the progress of enterprise Linux. Research firm IDC's current estimates find Linux-powered servers comprise 28.3 percent of all server sales so far this year and estimates the server market will peak out at $4 billion. The analyst group is also predicting that number should jump to $9.7 billion by 2008.

"[Linux] is now an IT ecosystem," Fink said. "This is where the future investments are going, and if you don't participate, you'll be left behind."

The story has not been the same for the worldwide Linux desktop market. Industry analysts at Gartner point to market share hovering between 2 percent and 5 percent. IDC is forecasting Linux should power some 25 million desktops in the next three years.

HP is hoping to turn that around faster with the release of its first Linux notebook. Fink showed off the HP Compaq nx5000 ($1,140), which runs on Novell's SUSE Linux. The unit also comes with OpenOffice, CD-R/RW support, DVD and media player, wireless and Bluetooth and full HP support and services. The introduction of a mainstream Linux notebook is a welcome sign to consumers who have slugged through several years of worrying about incompatible drivers and sometimes confusing configurations.

"This is the year that Linux overtakes the Mac on the desktop, and maybe my laptop will help accelerate that," Fink said.

To address its mid-tier enterprise Linux customers, HP released a new Compaq t5515 thin client, which comes with a free copy of Altiris remote management software. For the high-end crowd, HP said it now has full Linux support across its entire Integrity family of servers and broad HP StorageWorks portfolio. The computer and printer maker introduced its new Integrity Superdome servers and the midrange HP Integrity rx7620-16 and rx8620-32 servers as proof of its support.

HP is also revising its Linux Reference Architectures with consulting and integration services, as well as availability on industry-standard HP ProLiant blade servers. Introduced in January, the Architectures cover software stacks based on Oracle Database and Oracle Real Application Clusters and BEA WebLogic Server and an Open Source Middleware reference architecture based on open source software from MySQL, JBoss, Apache and OpenLDAP.

Enhancing its strategic alliance with BEA , HP is now supporting the software vendor's Beehive initiative, designed to help customers achieve an Adaptive Enterprise by easing their transition from lower-end application platforms to enterprise-strength application platforms. Beehive is BEA's strategy to open source the underlying framework and runtime from its WebLogic Workshop Java development tool.

"Linux is a key part of the HP Adaptive Enterprise strategy, as it is central to HP's unique approach to IT standardization," said Fink.

With the increased emphasis on Linux in government and military deployments, HP said it is nearing completion of the Common Criteria Certification process on CAPP/EAL 3+ (Evaluation Assurance Level 3 with Controlled Access Protection Profile) for its servers and workstations. The company said it should complete its certification process this fall for CAPP/EAL 3+ certification for Intel Itanium-based systems, making it the first to certify two distributions simultaneously on three different processor architectures. HP lags a bit behind IBM in this area. Big Blue recently completed its Common Criteria evaluation of Red Hat and has CAPP/EAL 4+ for SUSE Linux, the company said.

To help maintain its relationships, HP said it spent the last 18 months adding Linux-specific consulting, support and education service personnel. The company now has 6,500 specialists and has even broadened its portfolio of consulting services to include Linux-related readiness assessments and the maturation of service offerings for open source software. In addition, HP said it plans to complete certification activities with open source partner JBoss for worldwide coverage of JBoss Certified Consultants.