IBM pledges broad Linux support

IBM put some meat on its Linux plans on Tuesday when it announced alliances with four leading Linux distributors, as well as a timetable for delivering a host of hardware, software and middleware products for the open source operating system.

The company joins Oracle, Corel, Intel, Computer Associates. and several other vendors at LinuxWorld here this week who said they are stepping up their Linux plans.

IBM said it will work with the four main Linux distributors -- Red Hat Software, Caldera Systems, Pacific HiTech, and SuSE Holding -- on joint marketing, development, training and support initiatives.

In the second quarter IBM plans to release in the US two Linux-based WebSphere application servers, designed to handle tasks ranging from Web publishing to complex Java-based transactional processing, IBM officials said on Tuesday.

In the same timeframe it will introduce a Linux version of IBM Host On-Demand, a Java-based emulator used to access data and applications via a Web browser, and a beta version of On-Demand Server for Linux, used to manage access to online applications.

"This is going to result in a wider distribution of Linux in enterprise situations," said Jon Prial, director of integrated solutions and Linux marketing for IBM.

Since it released a beta version of Linux DB2 in November, 20,000 copies of the program have been downloaded, Prial said. Linux DB2 will be commercially available for the four versions of Linux in June, he said. IBM is also working to port Linux to selected IBM RS/6000 models, although it gave no timetable for that work.

All of the products due here in the second quarter, including DB2, will be available in other countries later in the year, said Robert LeBlanc, vice president of software strategy with IBM's software products group. The company will distinguish itself in part by its ability to offer consistent support services to companies with offices scattered around the world, he said.

The chief executive officer of Pacific HiTech, Cliff Miller, commented on the mix of cultures here at the show, as the ragtag band of Linux developers strike deals with corporate companies that could make Linux a more visible, significant platform for enterprise computing.

"What we're doing here is teaching IBM how to wear T-shirts, and they're teaching us how to wear shirts and ties," Miller said.

On Tuesday Oracle said a Linux version of its Oracle 8i database will be available for developers for free in about 30 days. Oracle has launched a Web site where developers can register to be part of its Oracle Technology Network. The first 20,000 registrants at the site, at http://technet.oracle.com/, will receive an "early access" CD, Oracle officials said.

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