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HP casts lure to hook high-end Linux customers

At next week's LinuxWorld trade show, the computing giant plans to announce that it will bring a Unix software package to Linux to make it more useful on high-end servers.

Hewlett-Packard will bring one of its Unix software packages to Linux to make the comparatively new operating system more useful on high-end servers, the company will announce next week at the LinuxWorld trade show.

HP will show ProcessControl Manager at the show and release a Linux version in the third quarter, said Mike Balma, marketing director for HP's newly formed Linux Systems Operation. The software assigns priorities for different jobs as they run simultaneously on the same server, an important feature for multiprocessor systems handling tasks such as housing large databases.

The software, while proprietary, still requires some support in the kernel, or heart of Linux, which currently can't report frequently enough what tasks it's working on, Balma said. The company hopes changes to accommodate HP's software--or other companies' products that work similarly--will be incorporated into the standard Linux kernel.

HP's new Linux software, which has been available for servers running HP's version of Unix for several years, is one of a host of announcements aimed at corporate Linux users. Linux is a hot ticket these days, and HP is racing against Dell Computer, Compaq Computer, IBM, VA Linux Systems and others to capitalize on the operating system's popularity.

In addition, Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP will announce that its line of special-purpose "server appliances," designed to be easier to use than general-purpose servers, all will use Linux. The Netstructure 1010 and 1020 server appliances for housing Web sites, actually built by Intel, are scheduled to go on sale in March, HP said.

HP also is working to make sure its large printer organization isn't being left behind by the spreading use of Linux. All the company's laser printers now are supported under Linux, and HP will show a new driver for its inkjet printer line as well.

Balma said HP hopes eventually to release the inkjet printer driver as open source, meaning that--as with Linux itself--anyone may modify and distribute the software. For now, HP is working through intellectual property issues that prevent such a move.

The company plans to increase its Linux services, announcing that it will add a program offering, though not guaranteeing, a 6-hour response time to companies whose Linux servers fail. The service is expensive, Balma said, because it requires extensive planning and sophisticated computer setups before HP will make the commitment to the response time.

Besides the ProcessControl Manager software, HP will show ServiceControl Manager, management software that makes it easier to simultaneously control large numbers of servers doing the same jobs. The software is scheduled to ship in March or April, Balma said.

HP also is CNET's Linux Centerworking on Service Guard for Linux, software that shares jobs among a group of as many as 16 computers, minimizing problems when one computer crashes.

Linux, a lower-cost alternative to Windows and Unix, is slowly growing into servers with more than one processor.

Because Linux belongs to no single company, part of its advancement depends on how well it does overall. For that reason, HP has joined with a host of companies including IBM, Dell and Intel that have donated money to a lab where others can improve their own Linux software.