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HP Debuts Software, Direct Support for Debian

Plunging Into Linux

  • August 14, 2006
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

At LinuxWorld today, Hewlett-Packard issued a string of announcements around Debian GNU/Linux, a Linux distribution available to users and resellers without the licensing fees charged by commercial Linux vendors such as Red Hat and Novell SUSE Linux. HP's new Debian offerings include first-time direct phone support for Debian, Debian enablement on HP ProLiant and BladeSystem servers, and Debian thin client software.

Also at the show, HP will introduce an Oracle solution stack for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4-enabled blade servers, new remote and diagnosis tools for all supported Linux server distributions, and first-time availability of its Open Source Middleware Stack (OSMS) implementation blueprints to resellers and other channel partners.

In the Debian announcements, Debian will become the third Linux distribution to receive direct phone support from HP, said Jeffrey Wade, HP's worldwide Linux markets manager, during a pre-briefing for LinuxPlanet. The other two are Red Hat and SUSE.

HP also offers phone support for Asianux, but strictly on an indirect basis through regional partners in Asia, according to Wade.

Wade maintained that, although some of HP's competitors run Debian discussion groups or offer downloadable whitepapers about Debian, HP will be the first to supply telephone support. "We'll be taking real phone calls," he told LinuxPlanet.

Moreover, HP's phone support has turned out to be very effective, according to Wade. For the year 2005, we resolved 99.5 percent of all support calls [about Linux] without escalation to Red Hat or Novell. That's a nice proof point," he said.

Why is HP adding Debian to its list of directly supported Linux environments? "One reason is the expertise that we've developed in Debian," he asserted. HP has been working on the Debian open source project since 1995.

Yet another reason is that, unlike distributions from Red Hat and Novell, Debian is available free of charge.

"Debian doesn't have a subscription fee," he explained. Consequently, HP's direct customers--as well as resellers and other partners--will be able to use HP's products for Debian without paying any royalties.

On the other hand, HP's opportunities with Debian are much "narrower" than with Red Hat or Novell SUSE, which hold strong partnerships with commercial ISVs such as Oracle and BEA, according to Wade.

"Where our customers have asked us for Debian is for some of [the] more routine [infrastructure] applications. Debian users tend to be mature Linux users. They tend to be [very] technically savvy," he elaborated.

As a few examples of where Debian products from HP will come into play, he cited edge network solutions such as firewalls and DNS and DHCP servers.

HP's first product specifically for Debian, the HP t5725 Thin Client, is targeted for availability on October 3.

Wade described the new thin client as a piece of highly customizable software geared to mainstream applications, as well as kiosks and vertical markets such as retail and medical.

"[You] might run a Linux server with a Web interface that accesses Windows servers in the background, for example. Then, you could add more software to that," said Wade.

Also at LinuxWorld, HP will announce that its OSMS solutions and implementation blueprints are now available for use by resellers, in addition to HP staffers.

Channel partners will be able to deploy the blueprints free of charge among their own customers, according to Wade. But resellers would work through standard distribution channels, to use the blueprints with HP products, and to receive support from HP.

Up to now, most users of HP's support services have been larger customers, "especially customers in the financial srvices, oil and gas and petrochemical, pharmaceutical, entertainment, and telecommunication verticals," notes Raven Zachary, an analyst at The 451 Group, in a new report being released this week.

Wade told LinuxPlanet that HP first unveiled OSMS earlier this year. "We've been looking at growing the channel [for Linux]. But in our earlier announcement, we didn't have all the pieces in place to support the channel. This will bring Linux out to a much broader set of customers," he elaborated.

New OSMS blueprints to be announced at LinuxWorld include Database Server Blueprints, scheduled for availability in late August, and open source Directory Services Blueprints, slated for the fall.

Meanwhile, HP's new solution stack for Oracle 10g with RAC, also being announced at LinuxWorld, is pre-tested and available now. The stack runs on HP ProLiant BL25p and BL45p server blades running RHEL 4, Wade told LinuxPlanet.

Will the new tweaks to HP's support, distribution, and product strategies really work? As many industry observers still see things, customers still want a single point of software support--or a "single throat to choke." But in his new report, The 451 Group's Zachary discusses his finding that enterprise users are looking more and more these days to application and OS vendors than to "pure-play open source stack providers" for assurance of support.

"IBM, as in so many other areas, is HP's primary competitor in open source support, although HP has far less in terms of proprietary software assets, such as application servers, to protect. Novell, Unisys and Sun are likely competitors for HP as well," Zachary writes in the report, which is entitled "Stack and Deliver--An analysis of open source stack providers, with recommendation for vendors and their customers."

"HP has more of a co-opetition relationship with JBoss, which does not compensate HP for referrals. HP can rach a larger customer base and support JBoss integrated with both open source and closed source server technologies."

Zachary also points out that JBoss is an integral part of HP's OSMS. "All may be up for review once the Red Hat acquisition of JBoss closes, but from a technology standpoint at least, we see no more conflicts than prior to the deal," according to the 451 analyst.

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