HP's Linux Chief To Push Integrated Stacks Through Channel

CRN Senior Writer Paula Rooney met with Christine Martino, vice president Hewlett Packard's Open Source and Linux Organization, at the company's Marlborough, Mass., Linux Expertise Center to discuss HP's open source efforts. Here are excerpts.

CRN: What is your experience with Linux?

Martino: I've been at HP for a long time and have run other small businesses at HP, including the carrier-grade organization, where I worked a lot with Martin Fink, the father of Linux and open source at HP who drove that effort for six years.

CRN: So you are succeeding Fink?

Martino: Last spring, Martin took over HP's Non-Stop business and was doing both. In the fall, he decided he would hire a vice president to have 100 percent attention on Linux and open source. I started as the vice president in November.

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CRN: To what extent will Linux on the desktop grow?

Martino: Desktop Linux is still growing. It has taken off in some geographies, and we've done some work with Mandriva and Ubuntu [Linux distributions]. But it's a very emerging space.

CRN: What is the hottest trend in Linux and open source these days?

Martino: The open source middleware and applications area. And growth in the overall Linux market. We also have been seeing a deeper integration of Linux in the data center, running more complex workloads.

CRN: Isn't the lack of application development holding Linux back on the desktop and server? One of your customers pointed out today that there are still a lot of niche applications that run on Windows only.

Martino: We're seeing more on the server, but yes, there is some [resistance], and that's why we're working with developers to enable them to port their applications more easily. It is a chicken and egg thing. Most have limited funds and it's a capacity thing -- how much money can you put into it. It's really important to help partners and across the board we're trying to help offload some of the costs for them.

CRN: What are the prospects for Linux solution providers working with HP? Hasn't HP been mostly direct with services?

Martino: That may be partially true, but partners are very important to HP, especially in EMEA. It's a very channel-centric region, but partners are also important to us in the U.S. As we grow more interested in middleware stacks, it won't just be HP doing services but partners selling HP-branded services.

CRN: How can HP's solution providers participate?

Martino: Linux Reference Architectures. We're adding components up the stack and building out these things and expect these services to go through the channel.

CRN: What are these Linux Reference Architectures?

Martino: We did a Linux reference architecture related to OpenLDAP in December and we announced a relationship with JBoss in February. You'll see more of this working on components at a more granular level and we'll rely on the channel to take these integrated stacks and bring them to customers more broadly.

CRN: We have seen an increasing number of large proprietary vendors like IBM, Oracle and even Microsoft making acquisitions and partnering with open source projects and firms. Do you see this as a way these software vendors can dilute or slow down their open source competitors?

Martino: We see some of that going on. It might dilute open source, but it also validates open source. Look, open source development is mature now and the business model is well established so if a big company comes in and buys competition, other open source competitors will emerge. It'll be a while before we can tell if companies are doing these deals only as an on-ramp to their own software, or if they'll keep purely developing the open source project.

CRN: What do you think of IBM buying Gluecode [open source application server]?

Martino: I think IBM is trying to create an on ramp to its own Websphere.

CRN: How will the open source channel develop over time? How will it evolve differently from traditional channels like Microsoft's channel?

Martino: It'll be different because it's completely services-based. You don't have big money bags behind it, but customers still need services, and services are higher margin.

CRN: How will HP define its Linux services channel?

Martino: It's still significantly direct but there's a lot we can do to help partners, including having them sell HP-branded services. And there's a lot of opportunity for players in open source middleware.

CRN: What are your plans for your Linux partner program?

Martino: We have a Linux Elite Channel program that is global. You'll start to see more stack integration services offered through channel.