HP Embraces Solaris on ProLiant Servers

A new agreement between two big rivals in servers will see HP offering Sun’s Solaris operating system on its best-selling ProLiant x86 servers.

In addition to distributing and supporting Solaris on its servers, the companies’ expanded, multiyear program will also see HP, No. 2 in server sales, (NYSE: HPQ) working with Sun to improve support for enterprise customers.

The announcement today by HP and Sun — typically at each other’s throats when it comes to server sales — may sound like an unusual strategy. That’s especially true considering that Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA), at fourth place in servers, is under the gun to acquire new customers and keep the ones it has.

But Sun has been formally supporting x86 since 2007, and John Fowler, executive vice president for systems at Sun, told InternetNews.com that it’s not always about competing in hardware sales.

“For a long time, we’ve had a strategy of selling our software on other vendors’ hardware,” he said. “We do that with MySQL, with Solaris, our identity management software… we have a broad range of software properties and we spend a lot of energy on making them run on other platforms. This is a way to reach customers that HP reaches that we might not otherwise reach with our software.”

At the same time, HP software will be expanded on the Solaris platform, according to Mark Potter, general manager for BladeSystem and Insight Software at HP.

HP’s Systems Insight Manager, ProLiant Server Health Driver and integrated Lights Out management software are all on Solaris, with more to come. “As part of this agreement in bringing Solaris up to this strategic level, customers should expect further integration and the solution will only improve,” he told InternetNews.com.

Solaris will now be on equal footing with the other operating systems HP offers its ProLiant customers — Windows Server, Red Hat Linux and SuSE Linux. HP will support Solaris on ProLiant through its EDS unit to focus around applications, infrastructure and modernization of services, Potter said.

Ulrich Schoen, head of technology for Nokia Siemens Networks, a provider of communications equipment, said Solaris on ProLiant gives the company a best-of-breed package. “This will actually enable us to leverage industry hardware and software components so we can focus our own R&D on innovations that will benefit our customers,” he told InternetNews.com.

In addition to optimizing Solaris on x86, Sun and HP worked with Intel on the development of the chipmaking giant’s Nehalem platform and are prepared to support it when Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) launches the Nehalem-EP server processor. Nehalem takes advantage of features in Solaris, like virtualization, power management and improved reliability and scalability, Fowler said.

Also as a result of the two companies’ agreement, HP will increase its involvement in the OpenSolaris community.

Until now, OpenSolaris — the “test bed” version of Solaris that’s used to create new technologies for testing, and which sees more frequent updates than regular Solaris — could be installed on a ProLiant, but HP had offered no support. Now, however, customers working with OpenSolaris can get formal technical support from HP, it said.

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