Linux bandwagon grows

Momentum behind the Linux platform will soon surge again with both Hewlett-Packard and Tivoli Systems planning to extend their management platforms to the open-source Linux platform, according to high-ranking officials at the two companies.

In addition, Compaq Computer is expected to Linux-enable its Alpha systems soon, according to a source familiar with Compaq's plans. Also, Lotus officials this week confirmed that the company plans to release Notes on Linux before the end of the year in response to market demand.

In the midst of growing Linux activity, Linux inventor Linus Torvalds this week plans to announce Version 2.2.0 of the Linux kernel, which will feature improvements in file systems, multiprocessing and security, as well as platform support for Sparc64, Alpha, and PowerPC.

Detecting an opportunity to move to the forefront of the Linux arena, HP likely will be porting its OpenView network management system to Linux in the near future, a move characterised as a "no-brainer" by HP's Nigel Ball, general manager of Internet and Applications Systems, in Cupertino, California. HP, which is a major Microsoft partner for NT in the enterprise, is also considering making available support services for Linux, according to HP sources.

IBM, meanwhile, has slowly been expanding is Linux commitment, first with beta releases of its DB2 database and Transarc network file system, and now with pending support from Lotus and Tivoli.

"We have done a fair amount of engineering, and have a version of Tivoli running Linux in our labs," said Tom Bishop, chief technology officer at Tivoli Systems, in Austin, Texas. "We see no technical or engineering hurdles that would prevent us from delivering a Linux product. Our view is that it's a good platform, a high-quality Unix implementation."

Bishop added that Tivoli Enterprise for Linux would be generally released when demand is high enough, perhaps in late 1999.

Support for Linux has been growing throughout IBM.

"I have to admit that I was skeptical about why the world needed another Unix, but the advantages are now clear to me," said Lotus CEO Jeff Papows last week during the Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Florida. As part of its effort, IBM is also pondering a Linux support service offering.

On the hardware front, a source familiar with Compaq's plans said the company will announce support for Linux on its Alpha systems next week, and that various support and development programs are planned.

HP, for its part, believes the OS has promise, particularly in the emerging "thin-server" market, for dedicated, single-function servers with minimal hardware and software. These devices could be deployed for applications such as e-mail, virtual private networks, directory services, and caching, according to the company.

"We would strip off the bits of software and hardware you don't need," Ball said. "At some point, the operating system becomes irrelevant. It's the application that you care about."

The growing interest in Linux comes as a breath of fresh air to one Linux customer.

"I'm starting to see more [support] come out; vendors are not quite as skittish when you mention Linux any more," said Jeff Noxon, programmer and consultant at Data Processing Resources, in Dallas.

"It's a best-of-breed Unix," Noxon added.

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