The open source Linux OS has become an increasingly important alternative for Compaq and its Alpha processor. Alpha is the well-regarded server chip that Compaq acquired when it bought Digital Equipment, a processor on which it has yet to fully capitalize. Earlier this year, Compaq and Microsoft suspended Windows 2000 development on the Alpha processor. By default, Compaq's Tru64 Unix operating system and Linux have become the only viable operating systems available for mainstream Alpha servers.
Since last summer, Compaq has expanded its use of Linux, moving more volume on Alpha and ProLiant servers and increasingly shifting Tru64 Unix to niche markets.
With its open source roots, where a community of software developers works cooperatively to improve the operating system, Linux tends to cost much less than other flavors of Unix, such as Sun's Solaris or Tru64 Unix.
"We've been doing quite a bit on the Linux front, but up until now we haven't coordinated it very well," said Glen Johnson, Compaq's Linux program director.
Compaq today said it had formed the Linux Program Office for bolstering Linux software development, both within the company and externally with the open source community. The Program Office plans to invest in tools and services that focus on enabling rapid and easy deployment of Linux solutions on Compaq hardware, particularly Alpha and ProLiant servers.
New beta development tools ported from Tru64 were also announced, with availability next month. Besides the beta Compaq C++ compiler, the Houston-based PC maker also announced Compaq C and Fortran compilers, which are optimized for Linux development on the Alpha processor.
Compaq also enhanced its online test drive program to include eight-way Beowulf clusters and Oracle 8i. Johnson touted Alpha's suitability for Beowulf technology, which collectively allows several computers on a network to act as a single powerful computer.
Compaq also touted its Linux services offerings, such as last week's expanded relationship with Linuxcare, which will provide Linux partners in the Compaq Solution Alliance with technical support. A similar services deal in October involved Red Hat.
Despite its big Linux push, Compaq is taking a cautious approach to bringing the Unix variant to its next-generation Alpha server, code-named Wildfire.
"We're exploring Linux on Wildfire, and we've done work to make it run but are still trying to understand what the market for that is," Johnson said. "But I'm sure people will make it run on it."
Compaq, which plans to release Wildfire next month, told financial analysts on Friday it expects to realize $1 billion in revenue this year from the new Alpha server.