Enterprise Unix Roundup: HP Hasn't Forgotten About Unix Yet

By Brian Proffitt (Send Email)
Posted Oct 10, 2007

Brian Proffitt
The amount of HP-UX boxes sold may matter less to HP than the amount of boxes sold, but the operating system remains an underpinning of the OEM's sales strategy for mission-critical servers.

Hewlett-Packard is still a big believer in Unix ... but man, do you have to get past the Integrity sales pitch to find out about that belief.

To explain — no, that will take too long, let me sum up: Integrity is HP's Itanium-based, enterprise-level server line, and the servers where HP-UX, HP's native Unix, has been marketed to mission-critical customers for quite some time. Granted, its not the only platform on which HP-UX runs, but Integrity is definitely what HP wants its high-end customers to purchase.

That was pretty much the main gist of my recent conversation with Brian Cox, worldwide director, BCS server software marketing. Cox is very enthused about the entire HP server product line, including Integrity and the ProLiant x86-based servers, which is to be expected. What interested me, though, was how much he emphasized the server lines over the software. Given his job title, I would have expected the opposite.

Of course, maybe the amount of money HP is trying to bring in with its enterprise-oriented divisions has something to do with Cox's approach. According to Cox, HP generates about $100 billion in annual revenue. Of that, $14.2 billion in revenue was generated from server sales in 2006. So it's safe to say the servers aren't a loss leader for the Palo Alto company.

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Still, if Cox's message reflects that of the company he works for — and I'm pretty sure it does — the amount of HP-UX boxes sold matters less to HP than the amount of boxes sold, regardless of the operating system sitting on them. In the course of our conversation, Cox mentioned several times how the Integrity servers were a good migration destination for customers because of their ability to run HP-UX, and Linux and Windows.

The flexibility of platform choice is a big marketing point for HP, one with which it will cheerfully beat IBM over their collective heads. IBM's big server lines run on RISC-based Power chips, which are not Windows friendly, and support just AIX and Linux. The hidden message in this sales tactic seems to be that offering customers a choice to run Windows is a good thing. I will gracefully let the premise of that idea pass for now.

With all of this whoopin' and hollerin' about OS-agnostic servers, you might expect HP to be a company turning its back on its Unix development. That was the real surprise of my conversation with Cox: HP is fully committed to improving its HP-UX offering. As reported back in February, the company released version 3 of HP-UX v11i, which delivered a 30 percent performance improvement compared to version 2, new hotswap and online patching capabilities to reduce downtime, and automation features help minimize operation costs.

According to Cox and HP's roadmap, the company plans to release new updates every six months or so. HP has followed up on that with a very quietly released update — code-named Vitality. The Vitality update, which Cox described as analogous to a service pack and security vulnerability patch releases all rolled into one, brings dynamic hardware-based partitioning capabilities to HP-UX. This means that partitions will be able to be keyed to individual memory, processor and I/O resources, instead of just being software-based. Vitality also includes newer compilers that should deliver a 5 to 10 percent improvement in application performance, Cox added.

More updates are coming, Cox explained. The Vibrancy release is scheduled in six months and Versatility for six months after that.

Although HP gives the appearance of a company preoccupied with selling servers, it's clear the OEM still has its HP-UX strategy in strong growth mode.

Brian Proffitt is managing editor of JupiterWeb's Linux/Open Source channel, which includes Linux Today, LinuxPlanet, and AllLinuxDevices.

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