Friday, January 22, 2010

HP-UX's future is in question. Does it lie in Linux? Or not?

Juanma's blog made a follow-up to my december post where I expressed concerns on HP-UX and Integrity's future.

I've thought more about it over weeks and here is what I think of it.

First we have Brian Cox's (in)famous blog post where he openly states that Linux should be considered in the long run by enterprise customers. I'm not against what he said, au contraire. He had the courage to confirm what many were thinking. But what does this mean? Is HP abandonning HP-UX? Not necessarily, but I wouldn't be surprised if this announcement means between the lines that HP has plans for Linux in the future.

We first have to look at the market HP is pitching HP-UX to: enterprise customers. One could argue that as long as HP-UX keeps a resonable TCO and is well regarded by all the Gartners of this world, it should continue faring well in the enterprise. But the fact remains that even if the average enterprise architecture team usually chooses a platform based on who wins an RFP or what industry analysts have to say, the pressure to move to Linux will just intensify over time.

Gartner aside, HP-UX does have great qualities that are fit for the enterprise environment. For one thing, it doesn't change much, which can actually make it cheaper to run than operating systems that are constantly being revised. And for customers who are looking for a vertically integrated infrastructure where almost everything comes from one an only vendor, HP-UX, and AIX, for that matter, are a no brainer.

Yet, developing, supporting, and maintaining your own operating system is a costly venture which, unless you're a strong leader, doesn't have a good payback. What pays back is the support and services you'll sell.

The bread and butter for HP doesn't lie in HP-UX itself; it lies in their enterprise vertical platform which, in my opinion, consists not only of the hardware and the operating system, but all the services you can offer under the same umbrella. Could an HP-supported Linux be the answer to the slow decline of HP-UX? I sure think so. HP would bring to Linux a very strong support and services infrastructure, that would please enterprise customers. They also already have a bunch of manageability tools that are invaluable to the enterprise, many already available on Linux.

Furthermore, HP's all about converged infrastructure now. That's what they've been nailing their customers about and believe me, they want them to get the message. We all know that Oracle is becoming a menacing converged player: they have the software, the hardware, and the operating system. HP will probably not allow itself to become runner-up.

One has to wonder, though, what kind of deal they struck with Microsoft with their Frontline partnership. I'm sure Ballmer asked Hurd not to venture too much into the Linux business when signing the deal. This is speculation, of course, but a possibility no less. And if it is true, then we won't see HP release their own Linux for quite some time, and HP-UX will stay there as long as it can bring them money.



Praveen B said...

Oracle coming as a convergent player is true to some what but needs time to catch up HP . on other hand if HPUX is ported to xeon then HP can be leader in both the middle and Enterprise world!!! what do you think??

Will said...

I just got back from HP Tech Forums 2010 and was impressed with the amount of actual development going into HP-UX. I don't think HP is ready to give up on it any time soon. Also they are still pushing openVMS and Non-Stop with their much lower market share. I think we will see those two go several years before HP-UX walks into the sunset.

Olivier S. Masse said...

I have no doubt HP-UX will be there for years to come but I don't know how much growth it has in front of it, however.

As an architect, I would consider using HP-UX if migrating away from another mission critical platform. I was a part of a team that did just thatin 2004-2005, with great results. Choosing HP-UX as a "drop in" replacement for a mission critical environment was an expensive venture, but a low-risk one.

But on the other hand, if I had a brand new project to launch, RHEL or SuSE would be strong contenders this time.