HP Readies Unix Push

Hewlett-Packard prepares its next version of HP-UX and announces new deals with IBM and Tibco around software support.

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.

/zimages/2/28571.gifIDC 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.