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HP to Officially Support Debian

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted Aug 16, 2006


HP  announced support this week Debian GNU/Linux on its ProLiant and BladeSystem servers, adding it to the mix of Linux distribution support that includes Novell SUSE and Red Hat. The last major Debian release, code-named Sarge, was released in June 2005 after much delay. The next release, code-named Etch, is on track for a release in late2006 or 2007. HP gave Debian GNU/Linux its stamp of approval, announcing support for the OS on ProLiant and BladeSystem servers.

"With Debian, just like with Red Hat and Novell/SUSE, we'll be taking real calls from real customers to address their support needs," Jeffrey Wade, worldwide marketing manager of open source and Linux at HP, told internetnews.com.

"Unlike Dell or IBM's Web site, we're not going to point you to a whitepaper or some discussion area where you can see how someone else fared installing Debian, we're actually going to take the call."

Although HP will be offering full technical customer support for Debian, it will not be engaging in the same types of marketing activities it does with Red Hat  and Novell .

However, HP's engagement with Debian goes farther than its relationship with Red Hat and Novell/SUSE. The current president of software in the Public Interest (SPI), a non-profit organization set up by Debian to help people develop and distribute open hardware and software, is HP CTO of Linux Bdale Garbee. Garbee is also a former Debian project leader.

HP's formal support for Debian may be new, but its relationship with Debian is not. The company has been involved with Debian for more than 10 years, according to Wade. For example, HP has used Debian in solutions telecommunications, where it recently helped Debian register against the OSDL Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) 2.0.2 specification.

Wade also noted that HP has been using Debian in its consulting and engagement practice, where it uses the distro for customers that want custom kernel development work.

Debian is also used by HP as an embedded operating system for print server appliances or network-attached storage (NAS)  devices; this way, the company doesn't have to burden the product with the cost of a subscription fee.

And therein lies the rub.

Enterprise Linux distributions from Red Hat and Novell/SUSE carry an annual subscription fee. Debian does not. Thus, by even the strictest definition, Debian is Free Software.

"You don't always need to have the costs of software subscriptions," Wade explained.

"Technically all of it is free, it's just that the difference in the model for Debian is you wouldn't be paying for the software updates. Customers would just be paying the support cost."

Moreover, HP's Debian customers can use the same update mechanisms available to all non-HP Debian users.

Wade noted that HP Debian will have nothing special beyond the latest set of drivers for hardware that HP produces.

Ubuntu Linux, which is a Debian-derived distribution, has also been getting a lot of attention because it's commercial sponsor, Canonical, announced long-term support.

From HP's perspective, however, Ubuntu is just another distribution. Wade explained that although HP works with Canonical to ensure Ubuntu interoperability on its systems, HP does not fully support Ubuntu.

This article was originally published on internetnews.

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