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HP Moving from Unix Itanium to x86 Odyssey on Linux

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted July 3, 2012


When it comes to mission-critical computing, HP has long advocated the use of Itanium processors running HP-UX Unix. Support for Itanium has come under attack in recent years, however, with major operating system vendors like Red Hat not supporting next-generation releases on Itanium.

With Red Hat, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 is supported on Itanium, while the newer Red Hat Enteprise Linux 6 is not. Oracle has also dropped support for Itanium in a move that has led to a court battle that is currently underway.

For its part, HP now has an effort underway to build the same type of mission-critical capabilities on an x86 system, as is available on the Itanium Superdome class servers running HP-UX. Codenamed Project Odyssey, the effort will eventually lead HP to favor x86 and Linux over Itanium and Unix, according to Scott Farrand, vice president of Industry Standard Servers and Software in the Enterprise Group at HP.

Linux Kernel"Our go forward strategy for mission-critical systems is shifting to an x86-based world," Farrand said. "It's not by coincidence that folks have de-committed from Itanium, specifically Oracle."

HP's plan is to bring the same high availability and resiliency that the Itanium business-critical systems deliver to an x86 base. HP's top end Superdome Itanium servers will be succeeded by something now known as Project Dragon Hawk, on x86 with mission-critical Linux. Dragon Hawk will provide 32-way partionable processors and will be certified to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.

Unix vs Linux

While HP is moving toward an x86 base, Farrand noted that mission-critical servers have long lives. As such, HP will continue to support existing Itanium systems until they hit their end of lives, which is still far in the future.

That said, he noted that if a customer has a greenfield net new business-critical functions coming online, then HP suggests that a great opportunity is to move to Dragon Hawk running mission-critical Linux. Farrand added that HP is taking a lot of intellectual property and long-standing depth in the server industry and moving it to x86.

"It's an embodiment of firmware resiliency up in the operating system itself, with things like high availability failover technology being built into the offering, augmenting what already is in Red Hat Enterprise Linux," Farrand said.

While it is HP's commitment that Linux on x86 have the same types of features as HP-UX, it is something that will still take time. HP-UX now has an almost 30 year history as an operating system. When HP-UX turned 25, HP execs noted that Linux was still not as mature as Unix, and it still lacked the same types of snapshotting and rollback features that HP-UX delivers.

"We tell customers that our go forward strategic platform is Dragon Hawk, and look for those features to come to that environment," Farrand said.

Watch the complete interview below:

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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