HP may soon support Linux in its NonStop line of fault-tolerant servers, an HP executive hinted yesterday.

Speaking at the Red Hat Summit 2005 in New Orleans, HP's Martin Fink said that his company is considering the idea. "Maybe one day you'll actually see Red Hat Linux running native on NonStop," he said during a keynote address. "They call that foreshadowing in literature."

As general manager of HP's Linux and open-source business, Fink took charge of the NonStop division in April. He said that his company has yet to formulate a definitive plan, but it is working on ways to make Linux and NonStop work better together.

The NonStop servers, which were developed by Tandem Computers and acquired by HP as part of its 2002 Compaq acquisition, are fault-tolerant servers that often used to run transaction processing environments like Sabre Holdings Corp.'s travel reservation system.

Increasingly, however, customers like Sabre are interested in using NonStop servers in conjunction with Linux applications, Fink said.

HP's next-generation of NonStop servers will be based on Intel's Itanium 2, and Linux has already been ported to Itanium. But developing a version of Linux for the NonStop platform would most likely require that new features, like the NonStop thread scheduler, be introduced into the base operating system, Fink said, adding that HP at present has not committed to such a project.

If HP did support a version of Linux for the NonStop, it would not be unprecedented. IBM has credited Linux with breathing new life into its aging zSeries mainframe business and has managed to greatly increase the number of applications that run on the mainframe by adding Linux to the mix.

HP could be looking to reap some of the same benefits for its NonStop line, said Michael Tiemann, Red Hat CTO in an interview after the keynote speech. "This is not unlike the logic of what IBM has been doing with the mainframe," he added.