HP is to bundle the Solaris 10 operating system with its ProLiant servers and blade systems.
The multi-year deal, announced on Wednesday, marks the first time the hardware manufacturer has explicitly endorsed Sun's operating systems — a rival to its own HP-UX Unix implementation. The terms of the new agreement, which does not extend to HP's Integrity servers, make Sun a "strategic HP ProLiant OS distribution partner", according to a statement from the companies.
HP will also increase its participation in the OpenSolaris community, working on feature development and interoperability.
John Fowler, Sun's executive vice president for systems, said in the statement that HP's endorsement "dramatically expands the available market for Solaris on x86 servers, building on the largest installed-base of any commercial Unix and Linux distribution".
The deal means Solaris is now a "peer" to Microsoft Windows among HP's channels and partners, Sun's president and chief executive, Jonathan Schwartz, wrote on his blog on Wednesday. He added that the deal was all about increasing the market for Solaris.
"Today, we're announcing the single biggest and most important OEM/distribution agreement Sun's ever signed for the open-source Solaris operating system — through which we'll be joining forces with the world's largest supplier of high-volume servers, Hewlett-Packard," Schwartz wrote.
The announcement comes a day after market research firm IDC released figures for worldwide server revenue. According to IDC, Sun's servers saw a 14.1 percent fall in revenue in the quarter, year-on-year, and a 8.4 percent decline for the whole of 2008. That compares with a drop of 14 percent and 3.3 percent respectively for the server industry as a whole.
Sun held onto fourth place in the server-hardware market, after IBM, HP and Dell. The new partnership allies Sun's Solaris operating system with machines from the three manufacturers ahead of it in server-hardware sales.
"This relationship brings every major server vendor to the Solaris OEM marketplace, with HP capping a great list of Solaris endorsers that includes Intel, AMD, IBM, Dell and many others," Schwartz wrote. "At this stage, we count more than a 1,000 x86 systems supported by Solaris and OpenSolaris, and nearly 8,000 [independent software vendor] applications."