Linux meets IBM's Netfinity

Looking to provide customers with servers tuned to specific functions in key Internet areas, IBM is gearing up its mainstay servers specifically for Web hosting.

IBM later this month plans to deliver a new member in its Netfinity line of low-cost Intel-based servers, running Linux, targeted at Internet service providers and application service providers (ASPs).

This server will suit the needs of ISPs and ASPs clamouring for low-cost servers so they can offer inexpensive services to small and midsize businesses -- as well as to departments within enterprises -- as they enter the Internet-commerce field, IBM officials said.

By offering most major versions of Linux on the new Netfinity, IBM may satisfy ISP demand for the OS more competitively than its rivals, one analyst said.

"Sun is giving Linux some rhetoric, but Sun does not want Linux to take off," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group. "The [Linux] market is real and Sun has to play, but they don't have the flexibility that IBM has with Linux."

That is because Sun has its stake in its own OS, Solaris, and in the higher-end servers that run it, while Windows NT machines may not be able to match Linux systems in price, Enderle said.

As part of its effort to better position itself in the burgeoning hosting markets against larger systems from Sun and an array of Windows NT-based servers, IBM will offer a 90-day Server Startup Support for Linux Plan, which offers a single point of contact for all Linux installation problems.

"We have seen tremendous demand among ISPs and ASPs to support the growth of both small and large companies on the Web. It is becoming a major part of the market. We will have a string of significant product offerings in this area this fall and next year," said Alex Yost, manager of worldwide product marketing for Netfinity servers at IBM.

By bundling Linux offerings from Red Hat, Caldera, Turbo Linux, and SuSE, IBM can offer a package that is priced lower than most Windows NT offerings, Yost said. Pricing for the two-way Netfinity model is expected to start just below $US1,800 when configured with as many as two 600-MHz Intel chips and a 9.1GB hard drive. IBM will offer the Netfinity 3500 M10 in late August.

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