HP Backs Open Source Server

Hewlett-Packard's endorsement of an application server that uses open source code holds the promise of saving corporate users big money.

Hewlett-Packards endorsement of an application server that uses open source code holds the promise of saving corporate users big money.

The Enhydra application server is emerging as another software building block of open source code — alongside the Apache Web server and the Linux operating system — around which a company can build its business.

While not yet accepted on every front, the Enhydra 3.5 application server has been quietly building a community of developers and big-name support, based on its backing by Santa Cruz, Calif., Lutris Technologies and its use by European developers at Envidian and France Telecom.

Adding HP as a big-name supporter is certain to give impetus to the technology.

"Hewlett-Packard has 4,000 resellers in the U.S. alone," said Greg Schwarzer, director of partner alliances at 180-employee Lutris, which has a sales force of 15. "For Lutris, this is huge."

HP is grabbing Enhydra and promoting it as a good piece of open source code that will help it increase its share of the Linux market. In doing so, the company hopes to appeal to new customers by offering them a low-cost and missing piece of their Web business software.

The deal means that the HP sales force, value-added resellers, distributors and systems integrators will name Enhydra as an approved, low-cost application server for HP platforms. That should get Enhydras foot in the door in a lot of places.

In the arena of emerging Internet applications, developers have a keen interest in open source code, but they often hold off using it until they see "big names behind it," such as IBMs backing of Linux and adoption of it for the mainframe. "The backing of HP brings a legitimization to our business model and product," Schwarzer said.

Lutris is aiming Enhydra at small and midsized businesses that need a low-cost, reliable application server. "We wont be running the Bank of America," Schwarzer acknowledged, but he said Lutris could make its documented and supported version of the open source code server "a volume leader in the middle-tier market."

Lutris Enhydra sells for $695 in the developer edition and $995 per processor for deployment purposes. The open source version can be downloaded for free. Typical commercial application servers are $7,500 to $15,000 per processor.

Lutris did a similar deal a year ago with Compaq Computer, which is now an investor in Lutris. Compaq recommends Enhydra on both its Alpha/Tru64 Unix-based servers and its Intel-based ProLiant lines.

Enhydra already powers the extensive online store The Mall on EarthLinks portal, where it handles application service requests for 1.5 million page views per day from half a million visitors. It also powers Indiqus entertainment channels, which are tailored to wireless devices.

Another user is eTranslate, which embedded Enhydra in its GlobalLink site monitoring and work flow system so new content can be translated into whatever language is appropriate to a Web site. "We love the presentation framework. It offers a terrific alternative to Java Server Pages or Active Server Pages," said Eric Friedman, assistant designer at eTranslate and an open source developer contributing to Enhydra.

Support From Mailing List

While HP is recommending the $695 developer version of Enhydra, eTranslate uses the free open source code version in its $40,000 GlobalLink product. Friedman said eTranslate gets all the support it needs for Enhydra by participating in the Enhydra mailing list, where questions are answered, bugs are discovered and patches are found.

Enhydra is a Java-based application server, but it is not likely to encroach on the turf of higher-powered Java application servers, such as BEA Systems WebLogic, IBMs WebSphere or iPlanets Application Server, Friedman said.

Looking to increase its Linux market share, the HP sales force and resellers will offer Enhydra to buyers of HPs Intel-based Netserver line. HP will also bundle Enhydra with the open source Apache Web server in its WebWise suite for buyers of its HP E3000 server. The two lines would cover much of the HP customer base, since E3000s run HPs older proprietary operating system, MPE/iX. Enhydra has been ported to both MPE/iX and HPs version of Unix, HP-UX .

Part of the reason HP is backing Enhydra is its ability to deal with eXtensible Markup Language messaging and wireless applications based on I-mode and Java 2 Micro Edition cellular phones. Netservers are often used to host wireless applications, and the availability of Enhydra helps "companies looking for ways to use mobile technologies," said Nigel Ball, general manager at HPs e-Services Partner Division.