HP To Support Solaris On ProLiant Servers, Blades

The two technology vendors, who compete in the server hardware business, on Wednesday unveiled the expansion of a multiyear partnership agreement under which HP will distribute and provide technical support for Sun's Solaris 10 operating system on the HP ProLiant server and blade system platforms.

Jonathan Schwartz, president and CEO of Sun, said in a video presentation that the agreement is one that top executives from both companies support.

"Both Mark Hurd [HP chairman, president and CEO] and I have heard directly from customers across the world that they are interested in Solaris, running it on HP hardware, along with getting the legendary support, not only from HP organizations [but also from] the innovation they've come to expect from the Solaris organization," Schwartz said.

The agreement represents a landmark shift in the market for Sun's MySQL database, its Java platform and other innovations in server and storage devices, Schwartz said. "This creates a compelling alternative for customers that are looking for more efficiency, more performance and ultimately, lower costs," he said.

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The move will benefit Sun and the Solaris ISV community, said Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based solution provider and partner of both Sun and IBM.

"This strengthens Sun's ISV community and broadens the platform for that community," Teter said. "HP has a big market share in the x86 server market. This will give Sun more opportunities to expand their Solaris platform."

It also could mean more opportunities for Sun partners, Teter said.

While application support drives opportunities for Solaris, Linux is still a broader operating system in terms of that support, he said. "If Sun can expand its Solaris base, it benefits us with more application support," he said.

Under the agreement, HP will support Solaris at the same level it currently does Windows, SUSE Linux, Red Hat Linux and VMware, said Mark Potter, senior vice president and general manager of ESS infrastructure software and blades at HP.

HP's customers and channel partners benefit by a single company supporting both the ProLiant servers and blade servers and the Solaris operating system, Potter said. Customers will also know that HP stands behind the complete solution. "There's no finger-pointing," he said.

However, the agreement includes only HP's ProLiant servers, and not its Integrity line of mission-critical servers, which will only be supported with HP's HP-UX version of Unix, Potter said. "HP-UX and Integrity are tied closely together for mission-critical environments," he said.

With the agreement, HP joins a list of server vendors including Dell, IBM, Fujitsu-Siemens and Intel that support Solaris, said John Fowler, executive vice president of systems at Sun.

Solaris is already certified on more than 1,000 systems, and can be downloaded for free by anybody, Fowler said. "It's available for any customer and any enterprise who needs a first-class operating system," he said.

The agreement helps Sun's Solaris platform reach vertical markets such as health care, retail and transportation where HP has a strong market share, Fowler said. "We're looking at this as an opportunity to expand our footprint against our competitors," he said.

HP will support Solaris with services, including level-one and level-two support, said Gary Budzinski, senior vice president of technology services at HP. The vendor also will provide application modernization assistance to customers that require it, he said.

Stuart Williams, senior analyst, and Josh Farina, analyst at Technology Business Research, a Hampton, N.H.-based analyst firm, wrote in a commentary paper that HP seems to be getting a better deal than Sun from the agreement.

HP wins by being better able to take its ProLiant servers into more mission-critical environments thanks to Solaris' strong power management, its ZFS file systems and other capabilities, letting the company target Sun's SPARC customers and partners to drive migration to its ProLiant platform, Williams and Farina wrote.

"Among existing Sun customers, HP now has a stronger value proposition. TBR believes HP will target Sun's EDS, telco, government and financial sector customers for the replacement of mission-critical servers. Further, HP will own the customer engagement by offering the entire solution, taking Sun support out of the relationship. Sun loses by ceding support revenue to HP and by losing contact with prospects that Sun could have tried to sell other Sun products and services," they wrote.

While Sun may lose support revenue opportunities to HP, the vendor seems to be hoping the agreement will drive incremental revenue and the sale of development and other software tools and services, Williams and Farina wrote.

"Sun could win just through the expansion of its addressable market -- which is a win for Sun as HP has a commanding lead in both the x86 and blade server markets. In the long run, this agreement helps customers who have and are committed to Solaris -- and retaining those customers is a strong win for Sun now," they wrote.