HP Readies Unix Push

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2006-05-25

HP Readies Unix Push

The numbers in the Unix market may be flat, but Hewlett-Packard sees a bright future for its HP-UX operating system.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company this fall will release HP-UX 11i v3—the first major revamp of the OS in three years—with enhancements in its virtualization and automation capabilities, according to Don Jenkins, vice president of HPs Business Critical Servers unit.

In addition, HP already is in the design phase of Version 4 and is in the planning stages of Version 5, both of which will roll out within the next two to six years.

HP on May 25 also is announcing an agreement with IBM to expand the amount of IBM middleware available on the operating system, and that enterprise software vendor Tibco is naming HP-UX as the preferred Unix platform for its customers.

All of the announcements illustrate the continued strength of HP-UX in a market that, while seeing revenue and shipment declines in recent years, still, at about $19 billion, accounts for a third of all server revenue worldwide, Jenkins said.

"HP-UX is a cornerstone in our adaptive enterprise strategy," said Jenkins, referring to HPs utility computing initiative.

The Unix market—particularly HP, IBM with its AIX OS, and Sun Microsystems with Solaris—has seen its dominance in the server market wane over the past few years with the rising popularity of volume x86 systems and the increased use of Linux servers for the low-end Unix workloads.

According to numbers released this week by analyst firm IDC, of Framingham, Mass., the x86 market and Linux server spaces continued to grow in the first quarter, while the Unix space saw a 7.1 percent decline in revenue and 8.7 percent drop in shipments.

IDC and Gartner say the server market is flat. Click here to read more.

However, despite the falling numbers, Jenkins said there still is a lot of business to be won in the Unix market. While Linux may be nibbling away at the low end, there still is demand among enterprise users looking for a place for their mission-critical workloads—particularly in the areas of business processing and decision support, such as data warehousing and business intelligence—and theyre continuing to turn to Unix.

One analyst agreed.

"Unix—not including Linux—is a relatively slow-growing market, though theres still a lot of revenue with it and margins are still pretty good," said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata, in Nashua, N.H. "Particularly in the scale-up and SMP [symmetric multiprocessing] space, although Linux has made gains there, theres really not a completely natural fit for Linux."

Thats why, despite the stagnant overall revenue and shipment numbers, HP continues to invest in HP-UX, just as IBM and Sun continue to put money into AIX and Solaris, respectively, Haff said.

Next Page: Unix space still big business for HP.

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Indeed, Jenkins said the Unix space—in software, services and hardware—is still a $6 billion to $10 billion business for HP, and accounts for 25 to 30 percent of HPs server business. He said HP has an HP-UX installed base of about 500,000.

HP is in the process of standardizing its HP-UX business on its Itanium-based Integrity server line. According to the IDC numbers, revenue for Itanium servers in the first quarter—the bulk of which were sold by HP—grew 41.8 percent, to $640 million, and the analyst firm has predicted a $6.6 billion market for the servers by 2010.

HP is bulking up the capacity of its Itanium systems. Click here to read more.

A large portion of the $1 billion a year that HP has pledged to grow the Itanium server business is being targeted at innovation in HP-UX and building the ecosystem around the operating system, Jenkins said.

The IBM and Tibco deals do just that, he said. The IBM agreement will more than triple the number of existing middleware products from Big Blue—from such brands as WebSphere, Tivoli, Rational and Lotus—that run on HP-UX and Integrity. The expansion will take place over the next few months, Jenkins said.

IBM software officials said their goal is to support as many platforms as possible to meet customer demand, and already such middleware as WebSphere Application Server, DB2 Universal Database and Tivoli Storage Manager are supported on Integrity systems running HP-UX 11i v2.

"Its really a signal where [the OS] has reached in the market," Jenkins said. "Weve got a lot of customers running [IBM middleware] on HP-UX."

HP is focusing on such areas as virtualization and automation in future enhancements of the operating system, Jenkins said. HP-UX 11i v2 already offers the companys Virtual Server Environment for greater system utilization, as well as high-availability and scalability features.

The next version will offer greater policy-based provisioning and dynamic configuration, as well as increased availability, Jenkins said. "Its about getting to the next level of automation and virtualization," he said.

Version 4 will be another step in that direction, he said, with the automation of policies and system provisioning, and virtualization with zero downtime for servers, he said.

Such integrated features—as well as the binary compatibility from one version to another—are reasons why the Unix OS will continue to be in demand by larger businesses looking for a platform for their mission-critical applications.

"They want binary compatibility, and they want everything to work together," Jenkins said. "It all works in the same way. Everything fits together, and there are no surprises. In many ways, Linux can do whatever Unix can do, but it places a lot of the burden of integrating all of that on the customers. Many of the customers are capable of doing it, but they dont want to."

Illuminata analyst Haff said it will be a long time before people look to Linux for the bulk of their high-end, scale-up environments, even though Linux development is moving in that direction. And once its there, the question becomes, why take on Linux—which is similar in many ways to Unix—when there already are three good Unix platforms on the market?

HP, IBM and Sun are making the right moves in looking at enhancing management and virtualization in their platforms, he said.

"As far as performance improvements and scalability improvements, were pretty much reaching a high level of maturity in Unix right now," Haff said. "There really isnt a demand for bigger single systems, so virtualization and simplicity of operations are absolutely the right directions for HP."

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