IBM Throws Linux Lovefest

IBM Corp. said this week it would be pushing harder than ever to promote upstart operating system Linux.

To that end, the company will build a Linux development group that will make existing IBM technology available to Linux customers and developers. Without going into specifics, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, the newly appointed vice president of technology and strategy at IBM's Enterprise Server Group, says Linux will get a boost in clustering, scalability and manageability, all courtesy of IBM's software stable.

IBM will work with the Linux community to "build a more robust version of Linux by open-sourcing select IBM technologies and integrating them into Linux," Wladawsky-Berger says.

In the same announcement, IBM also said it will be phasing out its 4-year-old Internet Division, which Wladawsky-Berger headed. The Internet Division has successfully fulfilled its mission to develop products and presence for the Web throughout IBM, Wladawsky-Berger says.

"Linux will be integral on all IBM platforms, even the S/390," says Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects, a consultancy in Washington, D.C. This will probably force IBM competitors such as Compaq, Dell and Hewlett-Packard to beef up their support for Linux. "This is an evolutionary trend," he says.

Some observers believe Big Blue is already the leading proponent of Linux, delivering the most comprehensive service and support. For example, IBM offers services and consultation for Linux users, and has made a fair portion of its middleware and all its server platforms Linux-friendly. For instance, IBM's Netfinity PC server unit is actively promoting Linux as a less-expensive alternative to Windows NT.

The RS/6000 division has also made some of its models, such as the F50, capable of running a Linux operating system. Later this year, IBM will provide a free software tool kit that will let developers run Linux applications on the AIX 4.3.3 platform. The company has promised that Linux applications will be able to run on the upcoming Intel-chip-based Unix flavor, Monterey. IBM is also letting some of its S/390 users test a partitioned version of Linux tweaked to run on a mainframe and is waiting on results.

Indeed, while Compaq, Dell and HP also offer Linux on their servers, they are doing so with less fervor than IBM, says Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga Information Group, a consultancy in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Sun may also start considering bundling Linux on its low-end and midrange servers. Eventually, depending on the operating system's success, vendors may consider consolidating all their applications on Linux, Quandt says.

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