Support is a serious driver for enterprise Linux adoption for mission critical duties. Not only does it help to
have a major hardware or software vendor stand behind a Linux vendor, but it soothes the anxieties of IT administrators wondering if their favorite Linux distribution has long-term viability.
In the past six days, major support deals have been making headlines. On the software side, last week Oracle announced it would provide support for UnitedLinux. Today, it was time for a major hardware move.
Hewlett-Packard Co. and Red Hat Inc. announced an elevation of their current partnership to a point where HP will support the leading Linux distributor's entire enterprise Linux line.
"Support is one of the key issues that will help shift Linux into a higher gear in the mainstream enterprise," said Mike Evans, vice president of channel sales and development for Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat. "Twelve months ago, our serious business customers were leading edge folks like those on Wall Street. Now it's a different group, traditional mainstream companies that are bringing Linux in."
Customers will be able to call HP for technical Linux support. HP will back up the high-end Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS and low-end Enterprise Linux ES servers, as well as the Enterprise Linux WS workstations on HP's 32-bit Intel and Itanium servers.
Red Hat has similar support deals with IBM Corp. and Dell Computer Co., and attributed HP's delay to the hardware vendor's $18 billion acquisition of Compaq.
"They've said that the merger delayed things in a sense," Evans said. "We've had agreements in various stages with both HP and Compaq through the years. But those were fragmented among the different business units. There was no global agreement between both companies."
Evans said this deal puts Linux on an equal footing with its flavor of Unix, HP-UX, and Windows as an enterprise operating system at HP.
"Before, Linux for HP was important," Evans said. "But it was not at the same level of support for those platforms."
HP is the leader in Linux server shipments, according to Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp., with $2 billion in revenue for 2002. HP said it expects 15% of its Intel-based server sales this year to be on Linux. HP hopes to grow its sales of Linux-based Intel servers 30% annually through 2005.
Last week, Red Hat announced the Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS workstations. Enterprise Linux ES is an entry-level Linux OS for departmental server applications, including application, network, file, print, mail and Web serving, as well as for running custom and packaged business applications. Enterprise Linux WS is an enterprise-class engineering desktop/workstation. Red Hat said it is targeting developers who do electronic design and compute-intensive work with WS.
"Linux is a major wave right now, a wave like the Internet was, Wintel and the client server," Evans said.
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