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Efrain Rovira, Hewlett-Packard Co.’s worldwide director of Linux marketing, wants one thing perfectly clear: HP is taking Linux very seriously.

“Linux is a very important customer trend that goes beyond the operating system. Customers want to do a lot more with less money,” Rovira said. “We understand that, so we’ve made Linux one of our three key operating systems: Windows, Unix and Linux.”

HP’s open-source plans aren’t limited to Linux, though. The company recently partnered with open-source middleware vendor JBoss Inc. and database vendor MySQL AB.

“One of the areas where customers are doing more with less is in J2EE [Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition] application servers,” Rovira said about the JBoss deal. “One server trend is Linux growth at the edge, but we’re starting to see customers experimenting with the J2EE and the enterprise DBMS.

“The thing that was keeping them from embracing it more or selling it to higher level of management was that there was no sizable company sitting behind J2EE. Customers wanted a big company behind the solution. They wanted support. So, we saw an opportunity to fill that need with JBoss.”

Now that HP offers a certified solution with JBoss, customers can get JBoss middleware from HP, and HP can also take first and second calls from customers when they have problems with the operating system and JBoss. “This makes large companies feel at ease,” Rovira said

HP is currently working with MySQL to get it ready for first- and second-tier support as well, according to Rovira. He said that HP is making both JBoss and MySQL products and services into part numbers to make selling them easier to HP’s customers.

“We look at customer trends. We plan to be where the customers will be,” Rovira said.

To ensure that HP is ahead of the curve, it experiments. For example, the company preinstalled Linux on the Compaq nx5000 notebook computer.

Rovira said HP has been “watching the Linux desktop market carefully. Customers were saying they want to kick the tires of the Linux desktop and they wanted preinstalls, so working with Linux wasn’t like a science experiment.”

However, customers wanted more than that just a preinstalled Linux, Rovira said. “Customers wanted one distribution from desktop to servers. Novell [Inc.] was the only choice at the time, so we talked to Novell and the customer push drove us to standardize on the Novell Linux Desktop.”

Click here to read about Novell’s new Linux desktop for enterprise customers.

HP is watching its fledging Linux desktop efforts carefully. Rovira noted that while some customers like preinstalls, “some like the flexibility of installing it themselves with their own mix of software. We’re looking for the value proposition for the customer.” If, as a result of these efforts, customers start demanding Linux desktops, HP will provide them.

On the server side, Rovira agreed with the recent IDC study that showed customers are going to Linux on blade servers.

“Customers are going to blades. Many of them have a great level of comfort with Unix-like operating environments and we see a lot of them moving from a Sun-installed base. They leap from Solaris servers directly to blades.” Of those, he said, “more than 50 percent are running Linux.”

While Rovira acknowledged that Linux has the highest growth of any operating system, he said that he doesn’t see HP giving up on Unix.

“When we look at … migrating to Linux, we see some workloads can take advantage of Linux’s value proposition, but some won’t go over from Unix.” For example, some applications, such as bank processing, require many processors.

For such applications, Rovira sees a “tremendous need for Unix systems.” He noted that the same IDC study also sees Unix still having about $20 billion of the server market by 2006. “A lot of people are sitting with Unix,” he said.

For those users, HP is making sure that it meets their needs with the HP-UX and Tru64 Unix Server and TruCluster technology. “While HP has end-of-life plans for Tru64, customers will have plenty of time to migrate to HP-UX. Tru64 won’t go away until 2011, and even then we’ll have deals for die-hard Tru64 users,” Rovira said.

Regardless of whether customers want a Unix or Linux platform, however, Rovira said, “HP is committed to delivering the best open-source solutions.”

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