HP Considers Bringing Linux to NonStop Servers

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-06-02 Email Print this article Print

HP is talking with its partners about bringing Linux to its NonStop, the former Tandem computer, line.

NEW ORLEANS—Hewlett-Packard is considering porting Linux to its NonStop fault-tolerant server line. During his Red Hat Summit keynote, Martin Fink, Hewlett-Packard Co.s VP of Linux and NonStop, hinted broadly that HP might be bringing Linux to its NonStop servers. The NonStop servers are also known as Tandem computers, from the name of the company that created them.
HP acquired this line with its 2002 Compaq acquisition. These are fault-tolerant servers that currently use Silicon Graphics Inc.s 800MHz MIPS R16000 CPUs.
HP is currently moving from its MIPs series in favor of Intel Itanium 2-based systems: the NonStop Integrity platform. The first of these new breed NonStop systems will appear in July. Linux has already been ported to both MIPS and Itanium-2. Both Novell Inc.s SuSE division and Red Hat Inc. commercially support their Linux distributions on Itanium-2.
In fact, HP and Red Hat have long produced a line of Itanium-2 workstations that run Red Hat Linux. NonStop lives up to its name by using a robust operating system, HP NonStop Kernel; an architecture, ServerNet, is designed for fault tolerance and supports from two to 4,080 processors. These servers are often used to process credit card, ATM, and securities transactions as well as high-level telephone switching and transaction processing such as the Sabre Holdings Corp.s travel reservation system, which lies behind Travelocity and other online travel sites. Fink, who had long been in charge of Linux and open source at HP, only recently took over the NonStop division. While NonStop has none of the sex appeal of Linux, it is actually, according to Fink, a bigger division of HP. Fink played coy during his keynote speech, saying that HP was only toying with the idea of running Linux on the NonStop architectures. "This is what you call foreshadowing," Fink said during the keynote. In an eWEEK.com interview afterward, however, Fink added more detail to HPs plans. "We have not yet decided to port Linux to NonStop, but we are looking into it and talking to our partners, like JBoss (makers of open-source Java middleware and a J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] application server), about if they had any interest in Linux on NonStop." "Some of our customers, like Sabre, are already using Linux on their front-end and theyre interested in closer integration between Linux and NonStop," said Fink. Fink has also given some thought as to how Linux could be ported to NonStop. "It wouldnt make sense to do it as a virtual machine on NonStop." Read more here about HPs plans to unveil the first of its NonStop systems running on 64-bit processors from Intel. This is the method that IBM usually uses with Linux on its zSeries mainframes. "There are just too many things that could go wrong with a virtualization approach on a high-availability system." Instead, "A native port makes more sense. It couldnt just be an ordinary port, though. New features, like the NonStop thread scheduler, would have to be introduced into the base operating system." Even if HP doesnt end up porting Linux to NonStop, Fink wants to strongly encourage open-source developers to port applications to NonStop. "There are already 200-plus open source applications on NonStop," said Fink. Red Hats CTO, Michael Tiemann, while not saying if Red Hat was working on such a project, did say that HP might be looking for some of the same success with the pairing of NonStop and Linux that IBM had found with Linux on its zSeries. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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