January 17, 2006 4:15 PM PST

HP considers open-source services

Hewlett-Packard is considering selling services designed to ease customer participation in the open-source programming community, the company's new open-source boss said.

"Across HP, there are thousands of people who contribute to open source. We have a number of processes and tools we've developed to allow different folks in HP to interact with the open-source community that protects our intellectual property and is done in a community-friendly way," said Christine Martino, who became vice president of HP's Open Source and Linux Organization in November. "We needed to get some pretty crack procedures together. The team doing that has developed some interesting tools."

Christine Martino
Christine Martino,
HP VP, open source

It's those tools and procedures HP is considering offering, perhaps as a product and perhaps as a managed service, Martino said. "We're exploring different business models for the tools we have," she said. "We've looked at (if we) should do it as a service."

HP isn't the first to see potential profits in providing an entree to the open-source realm, a programming environment that features different rules, personalities and consequences than what many companies are accustomed to. License provisions often prohibit proprietary software from being incorporated in open-source projects or vice versa, and contributing software to open-source projects can have patent and copyright repercussions for companies.

For example, Black Duck Software and Palamida both sell software to scrub software to make sure proprietary and open-source software doesn't inappropriately intermingle. And Open Source Risk Management is working with Lloyd's of London to provide insurance against open-source software risks.

But HP's possible services are a new direction for a major computing company. Most conventional open-source services today from companies such as IBM are geared for more ordinary challenges such as selecting, installing, configuring and running computing equipment.

HP sees managed services, in which it runs computing operations for customers, as a big part of the company's effort to expand at the expense of rivals such as IBM and Dell.

Martino declined to say who is involved in the effort, but she did offer some details. "Companies in the financial services industry are interested in this," she said. "They have a desire to use open source and are open to contributing to open source and need have some control points around that."

New open-source exec
Martino quietly took over as the effective head of HP's open-source effort in November. She reports to Martin Fink, who's still officially in charge of the group but who spends most of his time dealing with duties he added in May running HP's NonStop division.

"I think he thought there would be about six weeks getting his feet wet, then he could comfortably manage both. It didn't really work out that way," Martino said. "He wanted a vice president of open source and Linux."

Before her current job, Martino ran HP's business selling carrier-grade servers, often running Linux, to telecommunications companies. Such servers are typically variants of mainstream servers that include modifications such as direct-current power supplies and the ability to withstand greater environmental insults such as heat, cold, shocks

CONTINUED: JBoss partnership...…
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