Red Hat, HP join for Itanium Linux

In one of several partnerships under way with Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat will begin selling an Itanium version of its Advanced Server Linux product early this fall, executives say.

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Red Hat will begin selling an Itanium version of its Advanced Server Linux product early this fall, executives disclosed Tuesday, one of several partnerships under way with Hewlett-Packard.

"We're releasing an Itanium processor family version in early fall in conjunction with HP," including server and workstation versions, Red Hat Chief Operating Officer Tim Buckley said in an interview Tuesday. Red Hat said in its quarterly earnings report that the Advanced Server version of Linux is at the heart of its effort to wring services and support revenue from Linux.

Bolstering that effort, Red Hat and HP have signed a deal under which Advanced Server will be certified on and available with all of HP's Intel-based ProLiant servers--not just Itanium systems, but also lower-end Xeon and Pentium versions and superthin "blade" systems.

Red Hat also has included HP in its support for Oracle's 9i RAC database software, signing a deal last week under which Oracle and Red Hat Advanced together will be certified on HP ProLiant servers. Two weeks ago, Red Hat and Oracle loudly announced such a deal with Dell Computer.

"It's similar to the Oracle/Dell/Red Hat-certified hardware and software," said Paul Cormier, Red Hat's vice president of engineering. Red Hat has helped to speed the arrival of Linux features that Oracle needed, such as asynchronous input-output and direct input-output, Cormier said.

While Itanium systems are still immature, Intel is a powerful company, and its Itanium 2 processor, expected to emerge in July, is a much more credible product. Itanium chips are Intel's first 64-bit processors, which can address more memory and therefore compete better with 64-bit rivals such as IBM's Power processors or Sun Microsystems' UltraSparcs.

HP is a key partner for anything Itanium-related. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company invented the design underlying Itanium before handing it off to Intel to develop and manufacture. It still has extensive Itanium software expertise; employs David Mosberger, leader of the Linux-Itanium effort; and plans to bring Unix and Linux closer together through its HP-UX product.

With HP's history of 64-bit computers, "they're in a good position to push (Itanium) out, and we're in a good position to ride that," Cormier said.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is still working to release its first full-featured version of Windows for Itanium. Currently it sells only a "limited edition" version and has delayed the sequel, .Net Server, until the end of 2002.

Red Hat Advanced Server is all open-source software, meaning that anyone may scrutinize, modify and redistribute the software. It also means people may install it on as many servers as they like, Buckley said, in contrast to Microsoft's practice of charging for each copy.

However, Red Hat isn't so liberal with its support system, called the Red Hat Network, through which the company offers software updates. Red Hat charges an annual fee per server for Red Hat Network, offering upgrades vetted by Red Hat that are guaranteed not to break existing software, Buckley said.

Red Hat has had its own hitches bringing out new operating systems. A company it acquired in 1999, Cygnus Solutions, had been working on an open-source operating system called eCos, which could run on electronic devices that have very little memory, such as Brother laser printers.

Red Hat said Tuesday that the seven to nine eCos programmers, based in Cambridge, England, have been laid off, and the effort has been canceled.

"That area is something we have moved on from," Buckley said, though the company will support existing customers.

Red Hat had hoped for years that eCos and Linux would live side by side, with Linux being used in higher-powered "embedded" computing devices, such as handheld computers, network routers or special-purpose file servers.