Debian Linux to get full HP backing

Hewlett-Packard Co. plans to begin supporting the Debian distribution of Linux by the end of the year for customers worldwide, claiming that it is the first major vendor to provide full-fledged commercial support for the operating system.

The company also staked its claim to the leadership of the Linux server market. HP said it has sold 1.5 million Linux servers worth US$6.2 billion in the past eight years, over 50 percent more than its nearest competitor.

Debian is a popular version of Linux that, unlike Red Hat or SUSE by Novell Inc., is not backed or supported by a for-profit vendor. That has hindered its adoption by enterprises.

HP will support Debian on its ProLiant and BladeSystem servers, complementing support it provides worldwide for Red Hat or SUSE Linux, as well as Miracle, Red Flag and Haan among Asian customers.

According to Geoffrey Wade, worldwide Linux marketing manager at HP, the company’s engineers have contributed to the Debian open-source project for a decade. HP has also been supporting Debian for customers in specific niches, such as telecommunications and high-performance technical computing, during the past three years.

Monday’s announcement is an extension of that support.

“With Dell or IBM, when you need support for Debian, you’ll find yourself getting pointed to a discussion group or a white paper,” said Wade. “HP will take real calls from real customers.”

Debian users will still get product updates and patches through the Debian Web site, not through HP. HP has also not determined when it will ship servers preinstalled with Debian.

Eighteen percent of the servers HP sold last year were for Linux, Wade said.

HP also announced a Debian thin client and said it is adding remote monitoring and diagnostic tools to HP Linux servers that will help solve customer problems.

In 2005, HP said, it took more than 48,000 customer calls and solved more than 99.5 percent of the problems using its 6,500 trained support providers, Wade said. “In other words, we only escalated 180 calls to Red Hat or Novell all year,” he said.

HP is not likely to add support to other distributions of Linux in the near term, Wade said.

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