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Hot skills: HP-UX

Nick Langley

What is HP-UX?

Three suppliers dominate the Unix server market: Sun with Solaris, IBM with AIX, and Hewlett-Packard with HP-UX. All three conform to the single Unix standard maintained by the Open Group, and can run on one another's hardware. All three jockey to introduce technical innovations which are quickly taken up by the others. But despite aggressive programmes inviting customers to change their allegiance, each system's user base remains loyal and stable.

While Unix isn't achieving the same growth as Windows and Linux, and may in fact be entering into long-term decline, Unix servers are likely to keep their place in the datacentre, and in other mission-critical applications demanding mainframe-level reliability and availability, for long enough to provide an IT professional who chooses Unix with a sound career.

According to IDC's August 2007 figures, HP's PA-Risc servers lead the high-end Unix market, although HP is also the largest supplier of Itanium-based systems, on which HP-UX is also shipped. Recent releases of HP-UX have majored on security and reliability: secure resource partitions and mission-critical virtualisation. With its Serviceguard disaster recovery products, HP also claims to have the lead in business continuity.

 

Where did it originate?

HP-UX emerged in the early 1980s, based upon AT&T System V with later additions from Berkeley Software Distribution Unix.

 

What's it for?

Like IBM and Sun, HP has been focusing on virtualisation and partitioning, making maximum use of resources and even enabling applications to be moved from server to server, more or less eliminating scheduled downtime.

HP ships its operating system in integrated bundles called operating environments for different applications with Mozilla Application Suite for web servers, for example, or Serviceguard and Workload Manager for mission-critical database servers.

HP supplies the full Java platform on HP-UX, including its own tools such as Java Out-of-Box, which improves the behaviour of large server-side Java applications. It provides a Linux porting kit and Linux runtime environment. For native development on HP-UX, HP supports a variety of languages including C, C++ and HP Micro Focus Object COBOL.

HP also ships and supports a lot of mainstream open source products, including Perl and PHP, the Apache web server and Jakarta Tomcat. The Oracle-compatible EnterpriseDB implementation of the PostgreSQL open source database has been optimised for HP-UX.

 

What makes it special?

Rather than developing its own primary file systems and clustering solutions, HP has a long-standing relationship with best-of-breed supplier Veritas.

HP, thanks to the long-term success of its OpenView product family, is particularly strong in systems management.

 

How difficult is it to master?

Experienced Unix systems administrators can move to HP-UX with a five-day course. Unix beginners will need up to 19 days. In the same way IBM has increasingly introduced "autonomic" management features, HP has been adding "self-healing" and auto-tuning, and provides a "single pane of glass" view via the HP-UX System Management Homepage.

 

Where is it used?

Like IBM, HP is increasing its focus on business information, claiming that a substantial number of the world's largest data warehouses run on HP-UX.

 

What systems does it run on?

On HP's PA Risc and Itanium processors.

 

Rates of pay

Systems administrators, £34-40k.

 

Training

HP runs classroom and online courses but provides fewer opportunities for self-starters with no budgets to acquire its skills - there is no equivalent to IBM's Developerworks, for example.


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