Compaq, Red Hat ink joint development pact
Linux continues to gather momentum with enterprise technology vendors such as
Houston-based Compaq Computer Corp. But analysts say the operating system still isn't
at the point where vendors are choosing it to supplant existing Unix offerings.
Compaq Computer Corp. expanded its commitment to Linux today by announcing a joint
development agreement with Durham, N.C.-based Red Hat Software Inc. The accord is aimed
at improving compatibility and integration between Compaq's Tru64 Unix operating system
and Red Hat's Linux offering.
According to Compaq officials, a key goal of the partnership is to make it possible
for users to create programs in a single source-code implementation -- compiled on
either Tru64 or Red Hat Linux -- and then share the binary programs across the two
operating systems on the Alpha architecture.
"This will allow users to mix and match [Tru64 and Linux]," said Joel Berman, Linux
evangelist at Compaq. "Basically, we're putting some of Linux on Tru64 and some of the
Tru64 environment on Linux. We want to make it very simple for anyone using, developing
or managing Linux to have the same experience with Tru64."
Analysts said the announcement is important because it gives Linux additional
credibility as a "standard" platform. But, they said, it continues in the prevailing
vein of positioning Linux as one more alternative in an existing arsenal, rather than
as a new tactical direction for a major vendor.
"Compaq is making [Linux] a stronger part of its portfolio," said Dan Kuznetsky, an
analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. "But like Dell [Computer
Corp.] and IBM, Compaq hasn't made a move to lessen support for other operating systems
in favor of Linux."
Kuznetsky said before Linux becomes a commercial operating system poised to replace
existing platforms such as Tru64, it needs more enterprise applications ported to it,
better middleware and high-availability software for clustering and system fail-over
(automatic switching in the event of one server failure). In the meantime, Linux is
largely limited to small and medium-size businesses as well as technical sectors such
as engineering, academic research and content creation.
In addition to the joint development agreement, Compaq also announced that some
Compaq Deskpro EP and EN Series PCs and AP, SP and XP Professional Workstation models
have been certified to run Red Hat Linux 6.0. Those desktop and workstation offerings
complement Compaq's previously announced Linux support on the AlphaServer 800, DS10,
DS20 and ES40 systems; the ProLiant 400, 1600 and 1850R servers; the Prosignia 720
server; and the Compaq Professional Workstation XP1000.
"The issue for Linux on the desktop is applications," said Carl Howe, an analyst at
Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "Already there are two or three suites that
run on Linux and read [Microsoft] Office file formats. But it's not the thousands of
titles available on Windows."
He said the picture should get rosier for Linux as more enterprises become
increasingly Web-centric. "If it's browsers that you need, Linux has browsers. And you
can't beat the price," Howe said.