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Under a Big Blue shadow, HP Linux servers thrive

Linux server market share numbers can be tricky, with HP touting itself as a leader and IBM garnering all the press. For one analyst, it's all about identity.

Framingham, Mass.-based IDC reports that Hewlett-Packard Co. has shipped more than 1 million Linux servers to customers since 1998 -- 45% more than any other major hardware vendor.

... I'm not going to say for a second that IBM's Linux play is all smoke and mirrors, but there are other companies like HP that are doing stuff with Linux ...
Gordon Haff,
senior analystIlluminata Inc.

That means that HP can say that it has led the worldwide Linux server market for 29 consecutive quarters. HP can also say with confidence, thanks to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker from May 2005, that it outpaced IBM by nearly eight percentage points in quarterly revenue share.

And yet, that Big Blue thundercloud remains.

It's all about "identity," said Gordon Haff, a senior analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc. Haff said IBM has positioned itself as the Linux server vendor, even though HP's Linux-on-x86 numbers continue to dominate the market.

"I think absolutely IBM has very successfully established itself as the persona of the Linux leader," Haff said. "They did a very good job of advertising; of certifying their substance, in terms of how at one time if you looked at the Open Source Development Lab's list, for example, IBM dominated there."

Haff continued: "IBM has done great job in positioning themselves and I'm not going to say for a second that IBM's Linux play is all smoke and mirrors, but there are other companies like HP that are doing stuff with Linux -- selling, installing -- that are probably overshadowed more than they should be."

Haff credited HP for its strong effort and involvement with Itanium, with carrier-grade Linux and for its continued involvement with the Luster cluster file system.

"Also, HP is a much larger x86 server vendor [than IBM]," Haff said. "Certainly IBM is pushing Linux on Power, but most Linux still runs on x86 servers, so almost by default HP is very big in Linux. Overall HP doesn't get the credit it deserves."

However, Haff was not one to discredit the clout that IBM had accumulated since its early days of supporting Linux. For better or for worse, Haff said he believes HP has never made the same level of executive commitment to position itself publicly with Linux and open source the way IBM did.


HP: Next steps to extending Linux in your enterprise

"It is very fair to say HP does a lot in Linux, but I think if you do rank vendors in sort of how important they are in Linux, HP would be pretty far down the list, while everyone would rank below IBM," Haff said.

HP will continue to focus on Linux and open source development and innovation in areas such as blade solutions, desktop PCs and notebooks, enterprise servers, virtualization and consumer devices, the company stated in a release.

"By testing new open source and Linux offerings internally for optimum performance, HP provides customers greater expertise and guidance on planning and building Linux products and platforms into their data centers," said Martin Fink, vice president and general manager, Open Source and Linux Organization, HP.

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