IBM's pledge to increase support for Linux should boost corporate confidence in the open-source Unix variant, said analysts and users.
IBM last week said it will substantially expand its use and marketing of the Linux operating system across its entire range of server hardware.
A core focus will be on improving interoperability between Linux and other operating systems supported by IBM, such as OS/390, OS/400, AIX and Windows NT, said the executive in charge of the Linux initiative, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who was formerly the general manager of IBM's Internet business.
IBM also pledged to build support into Linux for clustering, symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) and systems management technologies. Any enhancements to the operating system will be made available to the open-source community from which Linux evolved, Wladawsky-Berger said.
Moves such as these should help make Linux more palatable to information technology organizations attracted to the interoperability and ease of use of the operating system but who are holding back because of service and support concerns. "Anytime you have a tier-one vendor making these sorts of pronouncements, it can only help" justify the use of Linux for corporate applications, said Jeff Davis, a senior systems programmer at Amerada Hess Corp. in Houston. The petroleum company uses Linux for applications such as file serving, Web serving and e-mail.
Growing support by most of the other major systems makers, including Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp., "will certainly speed up the acceptance of Linux as a serious alternative to Windows 2000 and to some Unix" versions, predicted Bill Claybrook, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston.
Linux shipments last year grew faster than the 26% predicted by International Data Corp. (IDC), according to preliminary 1999 estimates from the Framingham, Mass., company. Linux accounted for just under 16% of the 4.4 million server operating system copies sold in 1998, IDC said.
The popularity of Linux, particularly for smaller applications, is another factor that makes it important for vendors such as IBM to support it more fully, said Rich Partridge, an analyst at D.H. Brown Associates Inc. in Port Chester, N.Y.
IBM already supports Linux in a numbers of ways. For instance, Linux is available on some models of its RS/6000 Unix servers, and IBM has released source code modifications that enable Linux to run on its S/390 mainframes.
Similarly, Linux support on the AS/400 platform extends file serving and print services to Linux clients.