May 11, 2001, 7:39 PM — While conducting internal Linux research and development work in the past, Hewlett-Packard Co. engineers have used several Linux distributions, including versions from Red Hat Inc., Caldera Systems Inc. and SuSe Linux AG.
But now, Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP has chosen just one distribution, Debian Linux, for its main Linux research and development inside the company.
Martin Fink, HP's general manager for Linux systems, said today that the move is being made because it had become too unwieldy for HP engineers to use various Linux distributions for compatibility testing and other work. By using Debian, which is available under the GNU General Public License and is freely changeable by users, HP engineers will be able to make modifications as needed without having to schedule the changes with the makers of commercial distributions, he said.
While HP will use Debian internally for research and development, it will continue to provide sales and support for the five Linux distributions it already sells on its PCs and servers. That includes Debian plus Linux releases from Red Hat, SuSe, Caldera and Turbolinux Inc.
The change, said Fink, is part of HP's commitment to the Linux Standard Base (LSB) Project, which is working to establish one set of Linux standards to be used by all distributions for improved compatibility. The first early release of the LSB is expected in about a month, Fink said, but much remains to be done.
"It's a good first step," he said. "We want to accelerate that process so we can truly have a distribution standard." When such standards are a reality, customers will be the main beneficiaries, he said.
Bruce Perens, a longtime leader of the Debian project and HP's senior global strategist for Linux and Open Source since December, said HP is contributing at least $250,000 to help move the LSB standards efforts along and is providing technical assistance.