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Itanium's static loss is Linux's growth gain

The NewsWire's offices got a call today from RedHat, the world's largest Linux distro provider. The fact that RedHat is calling HP prospects, especially any as modest-sized as ours, spells trouble for the growth of HP-UX.

Within the last month, RedHat announced its development of Linux for Itanium is being curtailed. Version 5 of the OS will be last supported with enhancements for Itanium servers. Linux is probably the fastest-growing enterprise environment this year. It can generate a lot of hardware sales. With the RedHat announcement, Linux won't be driving much more Itanium adoption. RedHat's Version 6 is proceeding with full support of Intel Xeon chip line.

What prompted the RedHat call here? We downloaded a white paper to research a story. Just a few fields completed in a Web form qualified us for real-human interaction. Any questions? Could they be of any help in our selection of an environment?

While it's not unheard of, few 3000 sites who are on HP's call list are receiving contacts about employing HP-UX. Selling an enterprise environment as extensive as HP's Unix, well, it doesn't start with a cold call. But maybe it should. HP's taking the chat method instead.

These days, anytime you visit an enterprise-related page for a HP product, a box pops up that invites you to chat. The method is more comprehensive than a telephone call. But as anybody who sells will tell you, the phone call gets you closer to a purchase.

HP needs to push its HP-UX into new places with the same rigor that RedHat is slinging its Linux seeds. HP has even more motivation, really. HP-UX only runs on the Itanium server platform, while Linux runs on scads of environments. HP has a narrower plot to harvest, since it's got to sell both hardware and software for the solution. It's looking like HP-UX won't ever run on Intel's Xeon chips.

Installed base growth is the harbinger of an environment's lifespan. If a five-to-10-year active development window is long enough for your company, then none of the above matters. But considering that most companies are taking 18 months or more just to migrate to HP's Unix, that window seems narrow. The last time HP addressed the how-long question for HP-UX, they assured the world of 2016 development. That's six years away now.

HP won't report on the health of HP-UX growth for the quarter that closes at the end of this week. Few vendors do this kind of breakout. In lieu of hot numbers, a few cold calls could help reassure HP's Unix prospects about the future.