Hewlett-Packard is facing a difficult time in the server market. Indeed, IBM is gaining momentum amid HP's missteps with Itanium, the latest Gartner research suggests. Now, HP is trying to save face with a server initiative code-named Odyssey. But here's the big twist: Odyssey's biggest potential winner is Red Hat. Here's why.

At the high-end of the server market, HP recently revealed that its Itanium server sales are plummeting. HP blames the weak Itanium server sales on Oracle, which has abandoned Itanium-based software development. Unfortunately, HP fails to concede that Red Hat and Microsoft had previously abandoned Itanium, so HP should have seen the writing on the wall for the high-end processor. Meanwhile, Dell is striving to attack HP in the more traditional x86 blade server market.

HP's Latest Journey

Here's where things get interesting. HP is now evangelizing project Odyssey, which will strive to unify the Unix and x86 server markets. (Side note: The VAR Guy heard the same story nearly 20 years ago... it was called Novell UnixWare and it failed. Oh, and then their was Solaris for x86, and that failed too.)

HP insists it remains committed to Itanium, but read between the lines and Odyssey is a lifeline for Itanium customers who want to migrate to Windows- and Linux-based servers over the long haul.

And that's where Red Hat enters the picture.

Predictable Strategy

Bowing to market trends, HP says its Odyssey strategy will allow customers to run Windows Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) on HP's highest-end servers. Um, that's a 10-year-old trend. For current and former HP-UX customers, the most logical migration strategy is from HP-UX to Red Hat rather than Windows, since Unix and Linux are close cousins.

Whether Odyssey succeeds in a big way or merely limps along, the company that stands to gain the most is Red Hat -- which built its business on Unix-to-Linux migrations.