HP lines up Linux for embedded role

Linux-running standalone 'Web appliance' boxes could signal PA-Risc's survival

Hewlett-Packard admitted yesterday that it is exploring ways of offering Linux. But unlike other hardware vendors who have rushed to back the popular OS as a possible alternative to Windows NT, HP's take on it is rather more interesting. According to Lee Wilson, the director of marketing for HP's brand of Unix, HP-UX, the company is evaluating Linux's potential for controlling embedded systems. Quoted on US newswire C/Net, Wilson said: "We do see a place for Linux in certain application ares." These include what Wilson calls "Web appliances" -- single-function boxes that can be plugged into a network, such as firewalls or mail servers. Wilson also said HP was busy porting Linux to its PA Risc processor. Put these two snippets together and you have the core of a neat little gameplan. HP intends to shift its Unix boxes over to Intel's 64-bit Merced processor once it becomes available around the turn of the century. This, of course, leaves the PA-Risc at rather a loose end, and that's not something you'd have thought HP would want to do, having invested as much in the technology as it has. This Web appliance concept provides a role for PA-Risc in the post-Merced world. Whether Linux will be the host OS, of course, remains to be seen, not least because of Microsoft's own plans to create an embeddable version of NT. However, it would offer clear price and performance advantages. Looking at Linux as an OS for the commercial computing arena, Wilson is sceptical about its chances. While the forthcoming version 2.2 of the OS' kernel will improve its support for multi-processor systems, he reckons it still won't threaten other versions of Unix designed for such systems, such as... er... HP-UX. Equally, its inability to handle load balancing and resource sharing, both key requirements of enterprise servers, and its lack of a formal support structure will keep enterprise software vendors like SAP, PeopleSoft and Baan away, he added. ® Click for more stories

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