HP opens UK Linux testing centre

As HP claims market leadership over IBM, will the real leader in Linux servers step forward?

HP is stepping up its interest in Linux and has set up a UK centre of excellence for Linux in Reading.

The company is also planning to set up similar centres in mainland Europe and in the US. Further details weren't available on Thursday, but it's understood that Germany and Atlanta are under consideration.

According to Ian Dent, HP's enterprise Linux manager, the aim of the centres is to set up scenarios "that are as close to real life as possible". The Linux facility, located at Oracle's Reading site, will be used by HP customers who want to test Linux systems in live environments.

"This is the first place in the world where this has been implemented," said Dent. "Our customers can see real-life examples of the things they can do with Linux."

HP claims to be the market leader in Linux servers. "We are the biggest suppliers of Linux servers," he said. "One in five of our best-selling ProLiant servers run Linux."

Dent disputed IBM's claim to be leading the market in Linux servers. "The perception is that IBM is leading, but we are leading," said Dent According to Dent, IDC's figures for the third quarter of 2005 showed that HP was in first place with 38 percent of the Linux server market, with Dell in second place with 26 percent and IBM in third place with 19 percent.

But IBM has claimed those figures are misleading, as they are for new server shipments only and do not take into account upgrades and consolidations of systems, an area where IBM claims to have been doing well.

Dent said he had more bad news for IBM, this time in the Linux database market. Quoting Gartner Dataquest figures for 2005, he said that IBM's share of the Linux database market was now down to 17 percent with Oracle way out in front with 81 percent. But again this was based entirely on revenue and the new licence sales rather than units sold.

To illustrate the use of Linux in mainstream business applications, HP organised a demonstration at the launch, using two HP BladeServers with ProLiant blades running Red Hat Linux and an online sales application based on an Oracle database. The system was set up using standard scripts mainly from open source applications and other open source software.

With the system running live, HP demonstrated a situation where the two servers ran past peak loading and another blade had to be brought into service.

From "bare metal" , which means with no operating system, database, applications or any other software loaded, the new blade was brought into action and load-balancing commences with 25 minutes. While this is not an acceptable situation in a mission-critical environment, as HP explained, the aim was to show the worst-case scenario.

Even so, the demonstration showed that the task could be completed quickly, purely through a point-and-click process using the latest management tools from HP and Oracle.

The demonstration facility at Reading will allow customers to run simulations of this kind and to test Linux applications in a wide range of working environments.

The fact that the facility is on Oracle premises would also suggest that it will not be used to demonstrate open source databases. "We have no plans for deploying open source databases," said Dent. "But we do support SQL Server and DB2."