HP joins crowd in boosting Linux position

In what is becoming a game of one-upmanship, Hewlett-Packard follows Dell and IBM to make Linux one of its three "strategic" operating systems.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Expertise Processors, semiconductors, web browsers, quantum computing, supercomputers, AI, 3D printing, drones, computer science, physics, programming, materials science, USB, UWB, Android, digital photography, science. Credentials
  • Shankland covered the tech industry for more than 25 years and was a science writer for five years before that. He has deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and more.
Stephen Shankland
4 min read
In what is becoming a game of one-upmanship, Hewlett-Packard has followed Dell Computer and IBM to make Linux one of its three "strategic" operating systems.

Linux, a clone of Unix, has been elevated to the status of Microsoft Windows and HP's own version of Unix, HP-UX, said Jim Bell, general manager of HP's recently created Open Source and Linux Operation (OSLO). Windows will be used for smaller computers that sell in high volume; HP-UX will go on high-end machines that require top reliability and performance; and Linux will be used for building Internet infrastructure such as Web servers, Bell said.

Gartner analyst George Weiss says the announcement takes one modest step in stating Hewlett-Packard's general position on Linux, but the company's overall strategy still remains diffuse and less than exciting in vision, coherence and platform differentiation.

see commentary

With the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo less than a week away, most hardware makers are stumbling over each other to claim the most enthusiasm for Linux, a clone of the venerable Unix operating system.

IBM is spreading Linux across its entire product line, from its highest-end mainframes to its laptops, while Dell used the same language as HP when announcing its status upgrade for Linux.

Meanwhile, Compaq Computer, the quietest about its Linux enthusiasm, actually sells the most Linux computers, according to market research firm International Data Corp. Only Sun Microsystems, enamored of its own Solaris version of Unix, continues to hold off on Linux.

HP was one of the first major computer makers to embrace Linux. But the company has been perceived as lagging, Bell acknowledged, and formed OSLO as a result. "We had hundreds of people in dozens of divisions (working on Linux projects), but from the outside world, we were pretty much a non-player," Bell said.

OSLO is a higher-ranking successor to the Open Source Solutions Operation formed a year and a half ago, said Mike Balma, OSLO's marketing director. OSLO has a bigger budget and reports directly to Duane Zitzner, head of HP's hardware group, Bell said.

HP is a big backer of Linuxcare, a technical support and services company in the midst of rebuilding after losing its chief executive and withdrawing its initial public offering.

Linuxcare employees have helped produce a version of Linux for HP's 64-bit PA-RISC chips, Balma said. HP will show a developer's version at LinuxWorld next week and expects to release a production-quality version in the fourth quarter of this year.

The PA-RISC version is a culmination of two years of work, said Linuxcare chief technology officer Dave Sifry. HP's cooperation extended to releasing control over the source code of some programming tools, he said.

In addition, Linuxcare has certified numerous models of HP computers for use not only with Red Hat's version of Linux, but also with the other three major commercial versions--Caldera, SuSE and TurboLinux, Bell said. Moreover, customers will be able to buy a computer with Linux preinstalled.

HP has certified Linux for use with its Brio, Vectra, Kayak, ePC and NetServer models, Sifry said. "All those boxes are certified as fully functional, and all four distributions are up and running on them without any problems," he said.

The certification work isn't testing a computer after it's manufactured, Sifry added. It involves consultation with designers from early stages to make sure components work with Linux.

HP is making a number of other Linux announcements Monday at the LinuxWorld conference:

  HP will announce that its mission-critical ServiceGuard software will be available for Linux computers. The software lets one computer take over for another if the first crashes, without losing data or actions such as half-finished database queries.

The ServiceGuard software for Linux will be available in early 2001. It also will be available on Microsoft Windows, Bell said.

  Like IBM, HP is bringing its entire server software line over to Linux. The effort started with HP's OpenMail email software, already used on Linux servers to power more than a million email accounts. It will be extended to include management software such as OmniBack backup software, Web QOS (quality of service) software to ensure priority Web site visitors get a snappy response, the TopTools device manager, and the Network Node Manager component of HP's OpenView management software.

  HP will enable its upcoming servers using Intel Itanium chips to run Linux programs even when using the HP-UX operating system.

Linux programs already can run on HP-UX systems using HP's PA-RISC chip, but they must go through a technical reworking process called recompilation. On Itanium and future IA-64 machines, Linux will run unmodified.