HP-UX isn't a 'dying' business

With an installed base of more than 500,000 worldwide, the HP server operating system is alive and kicking, says a senior executive.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

It may be a 20-year-old product but the HP-UX operating system (OS) is still a high priority and plays a key role in Hewlett-Packard's overall strategy, according to a company executive.

Far from a "dying" platform, HP-UX currently has an installed base of more than 500,000 servers worldwide, said Herbert Zwenger, HP's Asia-Pacific vice president and general manager, in a phone interview. The OS made its debut in 1986.

HP this week launched a new release of its server platform, HP-UX 11i version 3 (11iv3), which Zwenger said includes enhancements to its Virtual Server Environment (VSE) management software and Serviceguard, a management tool for mission-critical applications. Improvements in VSE include a reference architecture that can help cut software implementation time by half because it carries a predefined set of rules, such as scripts for implementing BEA, SAP and Oracle applications.

HP-UX 11iv3 also provides hotswappable memory, CPU and I/O capabilities, so when a customer adds more memory or changes the I/O card, he will not need to shut down or reboot the system.

According to Zwenger, HP's business critical servers business is a multibillion-dollar business, with more than 10,000 ISVs (independent software vendors) working on its Integrity servers, more than 1,400 of which are based in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan.

"So why should HP-UX be a dying business?" he said, when asked about a previous statement by Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz, who once said in an August 2004 blog entry that "HP's problems spawn from the death of...their operating system, HP-UX".

Zwenger added: "HP is the only Unix vendor which has a long-term roadmap for HP-UX that's publicly available."

Before the launch of HP-UX 11iv3 this week, the OS was last updated in 2003 when 11i version 2 was released.

According to Jennifer Wu, research vice president of server market at Gartner, the number of HP-UX systems shipped in the Asia-Pacific region over the first three quarters of last year dipped by about 2 percent, over the same period in 2005.

HP launches two low-end Integrity
HP this week also unveiled two new Integrity servers, rx2660 and BL860c, which are the first entry-level HP business critical servers that come with a three-year warranty, said Herbert Zwenger, HP's Asia-Pacific vice president and general manager. Previous HP entry-level servers were sold with a one-year warranty.
He added that the new servers offer a better price-performance and TCO (total cost of ownership) than its predecessors, rx2020 and BL60p. "We run the same features, OS and middleware capabilities for our low-end [four-core] servers, that we run on our [128-core] Superdome servers," he said.

Gartner sees "no short or medium term threat" over the next 10 years that HP would discontinue support for HP-UX, Wu said in an e-mail interview. "Windows and Linux represent complementary OS and platform strategies, not replacement or exclusive substitution," she said.

Zwenger noted that while the company's focus on HP-UX is independent of HP's goal to be a software powerhouse, he said the OS "definitely supports this strategy". He added that the platform is an important component in its overall adaptive strategy, in which virtualization plays a critical role.

Too many OSes spoil the broth?
In his blog entry, Sun's Schwartz suggested that HP was affecting adoption of its OS by pushing the Linux and Microsoft's Windows platforms on its servers.

According to Zwenger, on top of HP-UX and OpenVMS, HP also supports Windows, Red Hat and Novell Suse Linux. Users can choose to run these OSes simultaneously, he added.

So, is HP's multi-OS support diluting its attention on HP-UX? Gartner's Wu does not think so.

"No, since Linux complements HP-UX, and HP has resources globally to sell, upgrade and support a multi-OS strategy," she explained. "If they can justify profits [in] continuing support, then they will continue to do so."

She pointed to the IT vendor's ongoing provisions for its OpenVMS platform.

Wu said: "Certainly, if any OS was a candidate for discontinuance, it would have been OpenVMS, rather than Unix. But, OpenVMS continues to be on HP's roadmap."

First established in 1977, OpenVMS had powered Digital Equipment Corp's (DEC) VAX computers. DEC was later acquired by Compaq, which was in turn acquired by HP in 2002. After the HP-Compaq merger, an analyst from Illuminata said OpenVMS "was probably one of the close calls" when it came to deciding which products HP wanted to drop or move forward with.

HP's Zwenger said: "We have very clear guidelines in terms recommending the right OS.

"What I can say is that HP-UX is much more mature than Linux, and also more mature than Windows when it comes to running mission-critical applications," he added. "But not every application is critical, so there's a market for HP-UX, Windows and Linux."

Wu noted that the success of HP-UX would depend on Intel's success with Itanium, which in turn will be driven by ISV (independent software vendor) and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) support and performance leadership.

"And of course, Intel, in its involvement in chip technology improvements, must be staunchly committed to HP's Itanium roadmap," she added.

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