HP/Compaq Linux Businesses a Good Fit

Neither Hewlett-Packard Co. nor Compaq Computer Corp. officials expect any significant shift in their Linux strategies.

Neither Hewlett-Packard Co. nor Compaq Computer Corp. officials expect any significant shift in their Linux strategies if the merger between the two firms gets the green light.

The union, voted on by shareholders this week, would effectively create the largest global Linux company and be a good meld of HPs Linux technology operations with Compaqs huge hardware business, Bruce Perens, HPs senior Linux and open source strategist, told eWeek in an interview.

"If theres anything in this proposed merger that people are looking to fix, its not the Linux businesses. The merger would be a good fit of the differing capabilities of the two firms. The HP team has enormous experience in developing a range of hands-on Linux solutions, while Compaq moves enormous amounts of hardware. As such, our Linux business would immediately be far larger and have the potential to grow even more," he said.

Mary McDowell, the senior vice president for Compaqs Industry Standard Server group, in Houston, agreed that the Linux strategies of the two firms are complimentary. Compaq has been focused on clustering and other advanced capabilities, while HP had been more involved on the imaging front and investing more in the Itanium space, she said.

Compaqs lead Linux product is its ProLiant servers, an IA-32 based line with top market share. The company is also active with Beowulf clustering and is working with the Steeleye LifeKeeper clustering solution.

"Were starting to see people increasingly want to aggregate relatively inexpensive compute clusters together, and IA-32 hardware with the Linux operating system creates a pretty attractive price point," she said.

Compaq expects HP to continue to invest heavily around Itanium and, as this grows in capability and popularity, the merged company would be well positioned to own this solution space as well, she said.

Stacey Quandt, an analyst with Giga Information Group, in Santa Clara, Calif., said the merger could force a shift in Linux market leadership away from IBM. A combined HP-Compaq would leverage the value-added software of the former and the volume economics, channel dynamics and Unix system software of the latter, she said.

"If the merger takes place, HP will have the opportunity to mine the technology assets of Compaq, which owns multiple operating systems, including Tru64, non-stop kernel and OpenVMS, and port technology to Linux. A potential outcome could be commercial support for Compaqs Tandem Single-System Image technology on Linux," she said.

Customers also appear not to have been negatively affected by the proposed merger. Since it was announced, DreamWorks, of Glendale, Calif. said it would collaborate with HP to optimize its animation software for the IA-64 architecture.

"This will be the worlds first Linux IA-64 render farm, enabling DreamWorks artists the ability to create larger, more complex images well ahead of the rest of the industry," Dreamworks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said at LinuxWorld New York earlier this year.

Likewise for Compaq, it recently announced a new partnership with Sendmail Inc., of Emeryville, Calif., to provide enterprise-class Linux-based e-mail solutions on Compaqs ProLiant servers.

In selling the benefits of the proposed merger to the Linux community, HP CEO Carly Fiorina has said publicly that one of the primary motivations of the merger was the shared belief in standards-based platforms and technologies, and the contributions of the open source movement in helping customers take full advantage of those platforms.

"By joining forces with Compaq, we are more powerfully positioned to lead the march toward open-standards and Linux than either company could on its own," she said in her LinuxWorld keynote. "Together, we will be the systems provider with the wherewithal to keep competing operating systems competitive."