HP Unveils HP-UX for Itanium

At long last

In a long anticipated move, Hewlett-Packard Co. announced support for Intel Corp.’s Itanium processors with its HP-UX operating system. Support comes with the release of its HP-UX 11i version 1.6, which is expected in July.

According to HP, HP-UX 11i is the first Unix flavor to support the 64-bit Itanium processor. Versions of Linux, which is arguably a Unix variant, are also available for Itanium. With the introduction of the Itanium version, HP added an “i” to it’s numbering, indicating Itanium compatibility.

HP was one of the earliest supporters of Intel’s plan to move to a 64-bit architecture. Its processor designers worked with Intel to make the chip a successor to the PA-RISC processors currently used in HP-UX servers. As a result, the processor is optimized for HP-UX.

HP-UX 11i is binary compatible with HP-UX for PA-RISC processors, allowing enterprises to move applications and data to new machines with a minimum of fuss. “We are sharing the exact same code base,” said Ram Appalaraju, HP-UX marketing manager, HP Business Critical Systems, in a conference call announcing the release.

In addition to compatibility with other versions of HP-UX, HP offers a number of options for moving applications from Linux. HP-UX 11i can use the Linux LE Itanium Runtime Environment for binary compatibility with Linux. In addition, HP offers a Linux porting kit, which helps developers recompile applications for HP-UX, ensuring libraries are in place for proper operation. HP believes many enterprises will be interested in using Linux as a development platform for HP-UX servers.

HP clearly has enterprise users in mind with HP-UX 11i. The operating system scales up to 64 processors, a first for a mainstream operating system for Intel chips. While Microsoft Corp’s Windows 2000 Datacenter Server scales up to 32 on 32-bit processors, its adoption has yet to match the momentum of Solaris on the StarCat server or the HP-UX Superdome. On the conference call, Appalaraju suggested a high degree of scalability was essential for HP to keep its enterprise customers.

HP added several features to further address the needs of enterprise customers. Version 1.6 adds an LDAP directory for managing user identities. It can plug into other directories such as Microsoft’s Active Directory. HP also licensed volume management technology from storage software vendor Veritas Corp. to aid storage allocation.

With the announcement of the latest version of Solaris 9, Sun Microsystems Inc. bundled a basic version of its SunONE Application Server, so it would be reasonable for HP to also bundle its Bluestone J2EE server with its latest Unix OS. However, little mention of Bluestone was made in either the conference call and supporting material. HP instead chose to trumpet its relationship with market leader BEA Systems Inc.

HP said BEA has worked to bring its WebLogic application server and its transaction platform Tuxedo to HP-UX for Itanium. BEA expects to fully support HP-UX in the second half of this year.

HP’s emphasis on BEA is a departure for the company, which paid $470 billion for Bluestone Software and its J2EE server technology in 2000. The company announced last week it was discontinuing its middleware products, including Bluestone, in order to better focus the post-merger company.

The announcement yesterday left one major question unanswered: What will happen to Tru64 Unix in the post-merger organization? Before the merger was announced, Compaq said it would also migrate its Unix server to the Itanium processor but continue to support the Alpha processor in accord with customer demand.

While the Alpha has a loyal customer base, HP management is aggressively seeking redundancies within the organization, and Compaq’s Unix division may be a prime target. Moreover, yesterday’s press release indicated features from Tru64 Unix, such as TruClusters and Advanced File System, would be merged into the HP-UX version. While Tru64 Unix may come someday to the Itanium platform, its future is far from secure.

About the Author

Chris McConnell is Product and Technology Editor for Enterprise Systems.