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The thin line between networking hardware and application servers is getting even more blurry, thanks to HP’s latest move.


HP’s (NYSE: HPQ) network equipment division is launching a new initiative called the HP ProCurve Open Network Ecosystem (HP ProCurve ONE), which enables applications to run inside of a network blade.


HP ProCurve has signed up Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Avaya, McAfee, F5 and Riverbed as partners for the program, which could help HP to compete more effectively against networking giant Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO).


“HP is the largest IT provider on the planet,” Marius Haas, senior vice president and general manager of HP ProCurve, said during a Webcast press conference today.


“So the kind of depth and breadth of coverage that we have at HP is something that outweighs anything that has presented itself in the networking space as a true alternative to what Cisco provides.”


Cisco has its own application server on a network blade effort called the AXP, which was announced in April of 2008. Cisco is also reportedly expanding its application delivery capabilities with a new server lineup.


Like Cisco’s AXP, HP will use Linux as the core underlying operating system on which application vendors will deliver their solutions. A Linux 2.6 kernel will sit on top of HP’s new ProCurve ONE Services zl Module, which is a blade that plugs into the ProCurve Switch 5400zl and 8200zl series switches.

 An HP spokesperson explained to InternetNews.com that the Linux OS is being used as a service OSto provide application installations, diagnostics and the checking of application licensing credentials. The applications themselves bring their own OS, just as if they were an appliance.

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