Enterprise Unix Roundup: HP, Our Unix is Easier to Use

By Brian Proffitt (Send Email)
Posted Apr 9, 2008


Brian Proffitt
Last week, I made mention that things in Unix-land were getting a bit abrasive, particularly between the big three: HP, Sun Microsystems and IBM. HP returns IBM's swipe with some of its own. It takes aim at AIX in an announcement about HP-UX 11i v3 Update 2, which is coming out this month.

In late March, IBM let fly with a trade-in credit program for customers to get credit on existing hardware when migrating to IBM machines running AIX or Linux. In the announcement, IBM took some specific shots at HP, maligning the performance of HP's Itanium-based machines as compared to IBM's Power servers.

As I was writing the previous article, HP called to set up a meeting of its own to discuss HP-UX. It didn't take a genius to figure out the next round was coming. Luckily, I've never been called a genius, so this was right up my alley.

On Tuesday of this week, I got the call from Brian Cox, worldwide director of BCS software marketing at HP. This week's announcement was about the latest release of HP-UX 11i v3 Update 2 (seriously, HP, these version names are killing me ... how about some animal names or something?), which is being released this month.

Enterprise Unix Roundup

Some nice stuff is coming out in this semi-annual update release: a 10 percent performance jump on the same hardware platforms and the addition of the Common Criteria security certification. The showcase feature, however, is pre-bundled Operating Environments (OEs) that will provide nearly turn-key installation for Update 2 users.

If you're feeling déjà vu, you're not alone. Didn't HP-UX have this already?

Indeed it did, Cox explained to me. In fact, beginning seven years ago, HP started shipping different bundled versions of HP-UX. There was the Base OS, then a slightly larger Enterprise bundle, then an even larger Mission Critical version. They were provided so customers would not have to buy separate components — all the parts and pieces were integrated and tested, and patches could be issued for the entire bundle. Installation for these bundles were really easy, thus lowering TCO.

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Looking at the press release Cox's people sent me prior to the phone call, it looked like what was released this month had already been done in 2001 because those were mostly the same key points in this week's announcement. What gives?

The difference, Cox told me, was in how the bundles are constructed and sold. "Customers loved the bundles," he explained, "but they were just supersets of the [HP-UX] applications."

Today, the Update 2 OEs focus on business tasks, not just a small, medium or large set of applications.

Four new OEs are being offered in Update 2. Here's how the press release described them:

  • Base OE (BOE) provides the HP-UX 11i operating system for customer who require robust UNIX functionality
  • Virtual Server OE (VSE-OE) provides the full complement of HP 11i virtualization software for customers seeking higher resource utilization or embarking on consolidation projects
  • High-Availability OE (HA-OE) provides HP Serviceguard clustering and related high availability software for customersb?. business-critical applications
  • Data Center OE (DC-OE) includes VSE-OE and HA-OE software for customers seeking both flexibility through virtualization and high availability

Cox said there are just two new task-oriented OEs: VSE-OE and HA-OE. BOE is still just the Base OS bundle, and DC-OE is just all of the bundles wrapped into a supersize OE.

Besides the known benefits of bundled and integrated software, Cox emphasized that the ease of installation was a big selling point for these OEs, past and present. In fact, ease of installation is a big part of customer loyalty for HP-UX. In the release, and in my conversation with Cox, it was brought up that the DC-OE, with more 150 different applications, can be installed in just nine steps. A similar configuration in AIX would take 35 steps; in Solaris it would take 87 steps.

"We've been attacked a lot by IBM and Sun for moving from RISC-based systems to Itanium," Cox stated. "The truth is, we've suffered a minimum loss of customers to IBM and Sun."

The bundles and OEs, he added, have engendered a lot of customer loyalty for HP-UX, and lower TCO has helped HP keep its HP-UX customers.

"We differentiate in the cost of operating," Cox said.

Right now, the new OEs have not replaced the older bundles, so if customers still want to buy them they can. Cox added that it would not be unexpected to see those bundles phased out over time in favor of the new OEs.

HP has laid out a pretty clear roadmap for HP-UX. Updates are planned every six months, while major versions will be released every three years. HP-UX 11i v3 was released in 2007, so look for 11i v4 in 2010, according to this schedule.

HP is pretty confident in its ease of use and management among the other Unix flavors. As for the other operating systems, their confidence is high there as well.

"Where Unix is today is where Linux and Windows want to be," Cox stated.

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

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