The deal allows HP to offer end-to-end support for mission-critical applications running on Linux, similar to what it currently offers for other operating systems.
HP's service organization offers support for products from SAP, Oracle and BEA, among other software vendors, as well as support for its own hardware, HP-UX operating system and system management tools, allowing it to provide complete support or outsourcing services to customers.
Last week, Red Hat announced Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES, which is designed for edge-of-the-network and departmental server applications such as network, file, print and Web serving. This new product joins Red Hat's other enterprise Linux products, Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS, formerly Red Hat Advanced Server, for high-end server deployments, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS, for workstation deployments.
Under the agreement, HP will provide customers full support for all three products. Red Hat, in turn, will provide technical support to back up HP's customer support team. The deal allows HP to provide customers with guaranteed levels of service, says Judy Chavis, HP's worldwide Linux director.
Linux is a relatively stable operating system, Chavis says, but customers who are looking at deploying mission-critical applications on it don't want to rely on Web newsgroups or listservs for support. "They want to know that there is a formal process, that they can get a resolution or know that we're working on one for them," she says.
For HP, the deal was drivin in part by large customers who are used to having one source of support for all their IT needs. For at least some of these customers, not having one single source of support was a potential deal-breaker for any major move to Linux. "HP has some customers, especially in the financial sector, who insisted that we have this kind of support," Chavis says.
European food giant Unilever, for example, which recently made a major worldwide commitment to Linux, is looking to HP, as well as to IBM, to provide end-to-end support for its Linux deployment.
"Unilever didn't want to deal with the Linux distribution companies," says Chavis. "They came to us because we've been supporting them on both Tru64 and HP-UX for a number of years, and we know what it means to support a global multinational company. [If there's a problem] they don't want to have to figure out who to call."