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HP works to bring Linux to NonStop servers

Company will collaborate with universities to move its high-end but rarely used product line closer to the mainstream.

SAN FRANCISCO--Hewlett-Packard has begun collaborating with universities in an effort to adapt Linux for its NonStop servers, a rarely used but very high-end product line.

NonStop servers, four-processor modules that can be interconnected to form gargantuan configurations, run demanding tasks such as the Nasdaq trading system. Today, they use an exotic operating system called the NonStop Kernel, but HP has begun moving the product line closer to the mainstream by adopting Intel's relatively mainstream Itanium processors earlier this year.

Now HP is seeing if the software can be made more mainstream as well, though it hasn't committed to swapping out the existing operating system. Martin Fink, head of HP's and as of May its NonStop Enterprise Division as well, announced the Linux move at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo on Tuesday.

"We're going to donate a collection of NonStop servers to premier universities around the world," Fink said. "With the help of (these) universities, we will be able to see interesting new capabilities in the Linux kernel and the Linux you use every day."

Linux already runs on many other Itanium-based servers, including HP's Integrity product line.

HP also announced it has moved 200 open-source packages to the NonStop line. By the end of this year, that number should reach 500, Fink said.

HP isn't the only one to try to mix Linux and high-end servers. IBM for years has worked to establish the operating system on its zSeries mainframe line. Linux was responsible for much of the revenue growth in the line in recent years, and IBM announced another customer Tuesday, motor manufacturer Baldor Electric.