February 24, 1999 12:50 PM PST

HP goes whole hog for Linux

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Hewlett-Packard is getting set to shift its Linux initiative into high gear.

HP will accelerate its open source efforts next week at LinuxWorld Expo, where HP will announce it has formed an internal organization called Open Source Software Operation, which will lead Linux work across several parts of the company. The group will also aid outside efforts to get Linux working on HP's PA-RISC chips.

HP first moved Linux efforts forward in January, when it announced Linux-certified server systems, but the new group signals a growing and serious interest in the upstart operating system on the part of large corporations.

"We're not dabbling, we're not testing the waters, we're moving ahead on all fronts," said Wayne Caccamo, who will lead the Open Source Software Operation. "Our approach is fairly comprehensive. It seems to be more sincere than the competition."

OSSO will be in charge of getting Linux working in HP computer systems, getting HP software ported to work on Linux systems, and getting HP's services arm to incorporate Linux educational courses and some technical support, he said.

"I think it's a similar initiative to what we're seeing from other major server vendors as well," said Tom Henkel, an analyst at Gartner Group. "They all see a market opportunity to sell their hardware with Linux running on it, and they want to capitalize on that opportunity."

The race is on for big-name computing companies to embrace Linux, a home-grown cousin of the Unix operating system collaboratively developed by hundreds of programmers across the Internet. HP has joined several other companies supporting efforts to get Linux to work on systems based on Intel and non-Intel chips.

IBM is backing Linux across several product lines, Silicon Graphics sees Linux as a boon to its effort to sell Intel-based servers, and Compaq is certifying Intel- and Alpha-based systems intended for Linux use.

In addition, Sun Microsystems announced in December support for translation of Linux to its UltraSparc-based computers. Today, Sun announced an initiative to help certain computer builders make Linux machines based on the UltraSparc IIi chip and the AXi motherboard.

Porting to PA-RISC
As reported by CNET News.com, HP has been working on its own port of Linux to its PA-RISC chips. But Caccamo said HP decided a better strategy would be to encourage an outside group, Linux consultants Puffin Group, to work on the port.

"They're going to do the first native port to PA-RISC," he said.

HP won't pay the Puffin Group for its work, Caccamo said. "They're not getting paid by HP to do this. They do it for the experience, the peer recognition," and the visibility the firm will get as a result, he said.

Linux/PA-RISC systems will be good for "Internet infrastructure" uses such as Web servers, proxy cache servers, firewalls, and e-commerce servers, he said.

Although HP hasn't completed its marketing plans, the Linux/PA-RISC systems likely will be available with a specific Linux distribution, such as that from Red Hat, through the reseller channel or perhaps custom installed at HP. This is the method HP has adopted for Linux on its Intel-based NetServer systems.

Software support
HP is embracing some of the "open source" principles that underlie the development of Linux. With open source software, programmers may freely download and modify the original programming instructions of software.

Although Caccamo declined to describe specifics of HP's open source plans, the company recently made its version of the WDB debugger tool freely available to developers writing programs for HP's HP-UX version of the Unix operating system.

HP believes helping out Linux programmers will make it more likely they'll write software that can be used on HP-UX systems, Caccamo said. "We're looking to move Linux into a preferred software development environment position. At the same time, we're making sure...it's easy to develop Linux applications targeting HP-UX deployment," he said.

And HP intends to port some of its software to the Linux platform. "We're investigating moving our broader application portfolio to Linux," Caccamo said.

The third leg of HP's backing for Linux will be in its services organization, which will offer courses on Linux aimed at developers and system administrators, Caccamo said. The company also will add Linux information to a free online support database.

 

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