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HP, Red Hat tighten Linux alliance

The companies announce a partnership that they hope will boost sales of servers running the Linux operating system.

Hewlett-Packard and Red Hat announced a tighter alliance Wednesday that both companies hope will boost sales of servers running the Linux operating system.

Red Hat is the top seller of the Linux operating systems, and HP holds the same position in the market for Intel-based servers. But until now, the companies' work together was hobbled by a patchwork of agreements that varied according to product and location, executives said.

The new arrangement means customers worldwide can call HP for Linux help, with Red Hat backing up the computer maker. "It's an elevation of the partnership," said Mike Evans, Red Hat's vice president of channel sales and development. Red Hat-HP customers now have "a global single point of accountability," he said.

Linux is an important part of HP's server business. About 15 percent of HP's Intel servers are sold with Linux installed, said Hugh Jenkins, a vice president for HP's industry-standard server group. HP said Linux-related business brought in $2 billion in revenue in 2002.

The previous relationship was "somewhat piecemeal," Jenkins added.

The deal raises HP's relationship with Red Hat to the position held by No. 2 Intel server seller Dell Computer and No. 3 IBM, Evans said.

Under the new arrangement, HP will provide initial support for all three of Red Hat's new Enterprise Linux products worldwide and ensure the software works on its machines. The deal paves the way for "much more aggressive" joint sales, engineering and consulting work, Evans said.

Ultimately, the companies hope the deal will help assure customers that Linux is well enough supported that it's safe to use not just in low-end servers but also in heavier-duty machines that customers can't afford to have crash.