IBM boosts commitment to Linux

IBM will refocus a generous portion of its Internet-based software development around Linux, an effort the company hopes will significantly broaden its software developer base as well as help bolster the sagging market share of its proprietary servers.

As part of this initiative, IBM will form a new unit, to be part of its Enterprise Systems Group, and will close its Internet division. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who headed the Internet Group, will become the vice president of technology and strategy, reporting to Sam Palmisano, who heads IBM's server group.

"Customers have been coming to us and asking us to help them build a better Linux in concert with the [Linux] community. When users commit to Linux for applications, they want a company like IBM to be behind them so that Linux evolves into the future," Wladawsky-Berger said.

IBM's redoubled effort around Linux will not affect, at least in the short term, commitments the company has made to its existing AIX Unix operating system, or the upcoming version of AIX sculpted for Intel's IA-64 chip for the Intel platform, commonly referred to as The Monterey Project.

"The position of Linux and Monterey will not change right now. For the most part, we have looked at Monterey as the evolution of AIX to expand it to 64 bits and to have it run on other non-IBM platforms," Wladawsky-Berger said.

IBM views Linux as a good "target platform" for Unix developers because Linux applications can be easily ported to other Unix variants, said John Thompson, senior vice president and group executive of IBM Software. To bolster the high-end capabilities of Linux, features from Monterey will be offered to the open-source community.

Besides the AIX and Intel platforms, IBM will strengthen its commitment to the open-source operating system on its S/390 series of mainframes -- a long-standing request from Linux developers.

Users will be able to set up a Linux partition on the mainframe, making it much easier to import both Linux and Unix applications directly into the OS/390 environment.

Wladawsky-Berger's new role assigns him the responsibility to oversee three specific areas, including the development of next-generation Internet technologies, plotting advanced technologies and architectures, and bringing together an integrated Linux/Unix software organization and the execution of that group's strategies and products.

Separately, IBM in the upcoming weeks intends to beef up its Net.Commerce electronic-commerce server with a series of enhancements around auctions, reverse auctions, and online procurement functions for the burgeoning business-to-business trading communities marketplace.

"You will see us take our whole e-commerce technology upscale," Thompson said.

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