Hewlett-Packard “Project Odyssey”

December 4, 2011, By George Lang

HP recently announced an important project designed to endear them to the x86 server crowd. For those not familiar with the scenario, x86 is the PC and open-source side of the computing world begun by Intel in 1978 with their 80286 processing architecture (not to be confused with the x86 distinction concerning 32 bit systems vs. x64 or 64 bit systems). Project Odyssey’s mission will be to integrate the hitherto proprietary HP Unix-based, mission-critical server market with the open-source server (e.g., Red Hat Enterprise Linux) and Microsoft Windows Server markets.

What does this move by HP have to do with you and your smartphone computing device? HP’s announcement could have a huge impact on the versatility and availability of business-based mobile computing applications; and in reducing the overall cost to corporations of enabling mobile computing for their employees. The proposed roll-out timeline is as follows:

“Project Odyssey will allow HP to transform the server landscape for mission-critical computing by utilizing the flexibility of HP BladeSystem, key HP technology innovations from Integrity and HP-UX and transition them to the x86 ecosystems. As a result, clients will be empowered to run their applications on the best platform at the right TCO in a simplified environment” (Odyssey Q&A).

By embracing PC and open-source on a mission-critical level, HP invites competition to the server-based marketplace. Other blade server manufacturers (e.g., IBM; and more recently Dell) are sure to follow suit. HP’s plan includes the incorporation of Intel Itanium-based blades within the same housings (e.g., Superdome 2 enclosures) as Xeon processors; with mission-critical Microsoft Windows Server workloads and Linux server workloads running simultaneously with the Unix ecosystem.

This is a good move on HP’s part. Despite the difficult, years-long commitment to accomplishing this initiative, HP will reap the benefits of inclusion and will be a pioneer in the interactive standardization of the single-platform server industry. Business-based smartphone users will also benefit from this win-win project as mission-critical applications are brought to the mobile masses from both Unix and x86 operating environments.

Analysts point out that Red Hat Enterprise Linux will be the biggest benificiary of all this, and that if you “read between the lines (sic), Odyssey is a lifeline for [HP] Itanium [Server] customers who want to migrate to Windows- and Linux-based servers over the long haul… [The] most logical migration strategy is from HP-UX to Red Hat rather than Windows, since Unix and Linux are close cousins” (VAR Guy). They caution that Project Odyssey is similar in many respects to decades old attempts to integrate the Unix environment with x86 and fear the same failures will befall this one.

Nonetheless, Hewlett-Packard says the roll-out of Project Odyssey has already begun and will be accomplished through cascading iterations for the foreseeable future.

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