The Gelato Federation, Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Ltd.’s new open source community initiative, is designed to advance computing solutions via Intel Itanium technology, the company announced Monday.

“We’ve got a vested interest in both areas … Linux in itself has a real appeal to academic organizations. I believe that there’s a cultural fit with the open systems development labs, and as well it’s very easy to recompile the code for different hardware architectures – it’s a highly portable format,” said Lorne Weiner, market manager for enterprise server solutions at Mississauga, Ont.-based HP Canada.

Known simply as Gelato, Weiner said the global consortium would help researchers and IT staff working on the Itanium Linux platform advance technology-related research in the areas of government, industry and life sciences.

Weiner added Gelato would focus on scalable Linux applications optimized for IA-64 technology, from single-node processors to Linux clusters to grid computing.

Co-founded by HP and several other worldwide research institutions, Gelato membership is open to all academic, government and corporate groups, the company said. Current members include the BioInformatics Institute (Singapore), University of South Wales (Australia), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Ontario’s University of Waterloo.

The Gelato Web Portal will provide the research community with software downloads, including new solutions developed by Gelato member institutions and by other contributors from the greater open source community, HP Canada said.

Each group will also offer IT infrastructure, human resources and financial aid in support of Gelato, the company said, adding that group representatives bring expertise in compilers and languages, security and Linux kernel performance capabilities.

HP’s participation in Gelato is strictly “altruistic”, Weiner said, noting that HP has a long history with open systems development labs.

“We actually maintain the Itanium kernel for the open system community … the whole basis of the Linux community means that everyone can have access to this code, make improvements, and they are compelled to make those improvements available to the rest of the community,” Weiner said.

The amazing thing about HP’s initiative is that it’s a commitment to 100 per cent open source software, said Dr. Peter Buhr from the University of Waterloo’s computer science department.

HP Canada will provide matched by the university, Buhr said, and will go towards the hiring of additional research assistants. He added the university would be working on “under-the-surface” Linux applications designed to advance research.

While not particularly “sexy”, Buhr noted, modular research conducted by the University of Waterloo would make the Itanium Linux platform more robust and accessible to researchers.

Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Ltd. in Mississauga, Ont. is at http://www.hp.com. The Gelato Federation is at http://www.gelato.org. The University of Waterloo, in Waterloo, Ont., is at http://www.uwaterloo.ca.