HP Bites the Bullet, Cuts TruCluster from Future HP-UX
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Perhaps the toughest part of the acquisition of Compaq by Hewlett-Packard more than three years ago is reconciling the highly respected technology that was embodied in Tru64 Unix and its TruCluster server clustering environment with HP's own well-regarded HP-UX operating system, which was missing its own native clustering. For years, HP has been working to merge TruCluster and its Advanced File System (AdvFS) with HP-UX, and last week it killed the project, deciding to partner with file system and clustering specialist Veritas instead.
With this move, HP will silence is Unix rivals, mainly IBM and Sun Microsystems, which have been heaping scorn on HP because of delays in bringing the future HP-UX 11i v3 to market and delaying the delivery of the TruCluster functionality.
Under the agreement with Veritas, HP will OEM components of the Veritas Storage Foundation and integrate it with the HP-UX 11i operating system, its Virtual Storage Environment (VSE) virtual partitioning software, and its Serviceguard high availability clustering software. According to Rich Marcello, senior vice president and general manager of HP's Business Critical Systems unit, which sells HP's Integrity, HP 9000, AlphaServer, and Himalaya servers, the decision to kill TruCluster for HP-UX was a matter of expediency. Three years ago, when HP bought Compaq, it seemed fairly simple to port TruCluster and AdvFS to HP-UX. But HP has undoubtedly found out the hard way that the sophisticated clustering that was the hallmark of Digital's VMS proprietary operating system is not something you can just bolt onto the side of HP-UX. It took Digital, which knew the code inside and out, many years to port just a subset of that VMS clustering to Digital Unix (which was rebranded Tru64 Unix after Compaq bought Digital back in 1998).
Back in September 2001, when the HP-Compaq deal was launched, Marcello said that the functionality of the Veritas file systems was nowhere near what Compaq had with TruCluster and AdvFS. Hence the desire to move it over to HP-UX, which had dominant market share in the merged HP-Compaq and among the Unix midrange at the time. HP was thinking of TruCluster and AdvFS as a differentiator, something it could use to steal IT budget dough away from companies like Veritas. It was a reasonable plan, and one that Sun Microsystems took as well with its Solaris platform.
It is three years on now, and HP has rolled many of the features from the delayed HP-UX 11i v3 software, which was due in mid-2005, forward to HP-UX 11i v2. HP-UX 11i v3 was not only supposed to have the TruCluster and AdvFS functionality as well as the nPar physical and vPar virtual partitioning capabilities of HP's Superdome machines, but also to have a single code base that ran on PA-RISC HP 9000 or Itanium 2 Integrity servers. Once the Compaq acquisition was finalized in May 2002, HP promised that HP-UX 11i v2 would be a unified code base that ran on both Itanium and PA-RISC platforms, and that a future release called HP-UX 11i v3 would add TruCluster functionality to this release. This future release was expected by the end of 2003. Sometime around the end of 2002 or in early 2003, something started to go wrong. In June 2003, HP demonstrated this TruCluster and partitioning functionality running in its labs on a beta of HP-UX 11i v3, but in November 2003, Marcello announced that the product was being pushed out until the second half of 2005. In August, as independent software vendors and customers pressured HP and its Itanium partner, Intel, to do something to make it easier to code for both PA-RISC and Itanium servers, HP moved a lot of the promised HP-UX 11i v3 features, such as vPars and a single set of APIs, back into HP-UX 11i v2, which HP then made run on PA-RISC boxes in addition to the Itanium machines it was originally coded for.
With the death of TruCluster and AdvFS for HP-UX and the partnership with Veritas, the heat is essentially off HP to deliver HP-UX 11i v3 as it was envisioned in recent revamps of the roadmap. HP customers on the HP-UX side of the house will be particularly relieved at this development. Marcello says that about 75 percent of the HP-UX Unix customers already use Veritas file systems, so making Veritas file systems and clustering software the preferred programs for HP-UX doesn't change anything for these shops. As it was, HP was looking at trying to migrate 75 percent of its Unix customers to its own TruCluster and AdvFS variants, which was not a pretty prospect. Marcello says that if HP did deliver the TruCluster functionality for HP-UX on time in mid-2005, it would have taken more than a year for all of the HP-UX and Tru64 Unix ISVs to get their applications certified on the hybrid platform. That's late 2006, which is an eternity away when you are trying to sell Unix boxes today. As it is, HP and Veritas will deliver an integrated solution in the third quarter of 2005, which still seems late, but that is well ahead of when HP-UX with TruClusters and AdvFS could have had any impact on the market. Thousands of applications that are already certified on HP-UX have also been certified to run on Veritas, so the job just gets a lot easier for both HP and customers by partnering with Veritas.
And while the Tru64 Unix shops are probably annoyed that HP just killed the last vestiges of their beloved product on Integrity machines, they were already facing a move to another platform--be it HP-UX or another platform such as Linux or Unix--anyway. Whatever TruCluster looked like on AlphaServers and Tru64 Unix, it probably would have been a bit alien on HP-UX. To cushion the blow to Tru64 shops, HP is going to offer customers with TruCluster and AdvFS licenses on AlphaServers free licenses to the HP Serviceguard and Veritas file system technologies when they jump to Integrity servers.
The partnership with Veritas does not, by the way, in any way change HP's plans for OpenVMS on the Integrity platforms. OpenVMS has excellent clustering technology that customers are devoted to, which is why HP kept alive Compaq's porting project to move OpenVMS, its VMS Cluster environment, or its Galaxy partitioning to Itanium servers. The Veritas Storage Foundation products that HP is integrating with its HP-UX platform are not even available on OpenVMS. So breathe a little easier, VMS shops.