HP said the deal - to be announced later today at OracleWorld - furthers its strategy of partnering with the biggest software vendors to make it easier for its customers to use the middleware products of their choice.
Having scrapped the development of its own application server earlier this year, HP announced a similar bundling deal in September with BEA Systems.
"Customers increasingly are saying they want to buy solutions instead of individual products," said HP systems software vice-president Don Jenkins. He added that the Oracle deal, which involves jointly testing the products for compatibility, furthers the company's strategy to meet that need.
From next month, customers who buy an HP-UX server based on HP's PA-RISC or Intel's Itanium processor will receive a CD with an entry-level edition of the Oracle9i Application server. Customers who buy HP Proliant servers running Microsoft Windows and Linux also will be eligible for the free product through a download from the Web.
Oracle hoped the three-year deal would help it to boost its share of the application server market, in which it trails some distance behind market leaders BEA and IBM, according to analysts.
Its strategy with the HP deal is to seed the market for its application server in the hope that customers will pay to upgrade to a more advanced version and buy additional middleware and services from Oracle, such as its software for building portals, said Thomas Kurian, Oracle senior vice-president for application server technology.
Kurian said that this afternoon he will also outline plans for the next version of Oracle's application server, version 9.0.4, due in the first half of 2003. It will include, among other things, new technologies for integrating applications and for managing user identities on networks.
The bundled offering with HP includes a full-use licence for a "special" version of the Oracle 9i Application Server, which will be sufficient for customers to deploy certain applications in a production environment, Kurian said. Among other components it includes the Oracle9i Application Server Containers for J2EE and a Web Server, he said.
The bundling deal announced last month between HP and BEA is similar in many respects. That offer includes a six-month trial version of BEA's software; customers can deploy the product in a production environment for up to 20 concurrent users, and after six months they must decide whether or not to purchase the product, BEA said at the time.
There is no time limit on the Oracle licence being offered, Kurian noted.
Customers will receive free support calls for up to five incidents from Oracle. The companies will also offer joint technical support for customers who buy support contracts, and they plan to train "hundreds" of HP sales representatives and technical consultants on the Oracle product.
Oracle will become a "strategic application server partner" for HP - an honour also bestowed on BEA. - and will work to integrate HP OpenView with its own management suite, Oracle Enterprise Manager. For its part, Oracle will promote HP's servers to its software customers.
The deals with Oracle and BEA are not exclusive, which means HP could, potentially, add IBM's WebSphere product to its list of application server partners.
Positioning itself as a "platform neutral" vendor, HP has said that it will also partner with Microsoft for customers who prefer to use .net software. to run their applications. Oracle, BEA and IBM all make Java software.
The moves are part of a broader trend towards bundling in the application server market. Sun has started offering a free version of its Sun ONE application server with its Solaris 9 operating system.