HP to offer per-chassis blade licensing

Systems also will ship bundled with Red Hat Enterprise Linux

SAN FRANCISCO - Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and Red Hat Inc. have found a way to simplify the software license management in blade servers: charge by the chassis, rather than by the blade server itself.

Beginning next month, the two companies will begin selling HP's BladeSystem servers bundled with management software and Red Hat Enterprise Linux that are priced on a per-chassis basis, the companies announced Monday.

With the per-chassis license, HP customers will be able to deploy Red Hat Linux on as many as eight of the ultra-thin servers. Neither company would say Monday what this license will cost, but Rick Becker, vice president of HP's Blade System group, said that he expects it to be about 20 percent less than the cost of eight Red Hat Linux subscriptions.

With the new model, HP hopes to make it easier for customers to add and remove blade servers without having to worry about subscription licenses, Becker said. For blade customers who are looking to quickly reconfigure their systems for new applications and operating systems, license management can sometimes be a bigger issue than software pricing, he added.

HP hopes that other software vendors, like Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc., will also adopt the a more simplified licensing model for blades. "I'm working closely with the guys in the Northwest; I'm working closely with the guys in Utah," Becker said, referring to the two companies.

Becker believes that application vendors like Oracle Corp. will eventually adopt per-chasiss licensing as well, though that may take years to be catch on, he said.

The advent of multi-core processors and virtualization software, which can allow a system to be reconfigured to run a certain set of software for a very short amount of time, has shaken up the software industry's traditional per-processor licensing models. To date, there is no consensus as to what the next software licensing model will be. Some charge for their software based on the number of processor cores in a system; others on the number of processors. And some companies, Sun Microsystems Inc. for example, have discarded the notion of per-processor licensing altogether.

Becker said he would like to see other pricing models evolve and suggested customers might also want a single license for an entire data center rack of servers. "I would like to have rack licensing," he said. "Wouldn't it be just great if my customers could just redeploy (software products) across their entire infrastructure."

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