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HP and Sun Microsystems have entered into an agreement designed to simplify sales, service, and support for customers who run - or can be coaxed to run - Sun's Solaris 10 operating system on HP's x86 hardware.

Under the new partnership - discussed on Wednesday morning in a joint conference call hosted by HP and Sun execs - HP will market, distribute, and provide technical support for Sun Microsystem's Solaris 10 operating system on HP's ProLiant Server and BladeSystem platforms.

According to Mark Potter, HP's senior vice president and general manager of ESS Infrastructure Software and Blades, the agreement elevates Sun to the status of strategic HP Proliant OS distribution partner, with Solaris 10 taking its place along with other ProLiant x86 operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Novell SUSE Linux, Red Hat Linux, and VMware.

Solaris is not new to ProLiant. HP certified it back in 1996. Potter referred to its current installed base among HP customers as "significant," suggesting that the agreement would help those customers by providing them with a single source - HP - for their "complete data-center infrastructure," including purchase and technical support. In other words, HP would be responsible for any issues that arise whether they involve hardware or software.

HP and Sun will work together on "further integration" of HP's Insight software-management suite for ProLiant. Potter promised additional usability and management enhancements, but gave no details.

Potter also took the opportunity to blow HP's horn a bit, citing the latest IDC server market-share numbers, which ranked HP as number one in x86 servers. He also pointed out that ProLiant held onto the top spot in x86 servers, a position it has now held for 50 consecutive quarters.

The Solaris agreement, Potter explained, relates to the ProLiant line only. HP-UX will remain the OS on HP's Integrity line of servers.

The agreement simplifies life for HP's channel partners, according to Potter, as they will now be able to source the complete Solaris-on-ProLiant package from HP.

John Fowler, Sun's executive vice president of systems, pointed out that the agreement with HP "comes on the heels of" similar agreements with Dell, IBM, Fujitsu Seimens, and Intel - and that Solaris is now certified for over 1,000 systems.

Fowler also claimed that Sun has been working closely with Intel and AMD for two years to optimize Solaris for multi-core, multi-threaded processors - although he said that Solaris has been designed for multi-threaded environments "for more than a decade."

He also announced that HP will join Intel, AMD, and others in "participating directly in the OpenSolaris community" and that Sun and HP are making a joint marketing investment to "dramatically expand the Solaris presence in new markets."

Gary Budzinski, HP's senior vice president for technical services, said that the support elements of the partnership will begin "in the next few weeks." Within the next 60 days, HP will begin reselling standard and premium (9-by-5 and 24-by-7), 1-year and 3-year Solaris subscriptions with HP software technical support. Sun will continue to provide updates and patches through its Connected Services system.

The partnership is good news for Sun, with HP's ProLiant leading the x86 server market at 38.2 per cent factory-revenue share in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the IDC report. It also better positions Solaris to be a longer-term Unix-variant survivor than any other Unix variant outside the Linux reservation. ®

The Register's Chris Mellor contributed to this report.

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