IBM launches UK Linux competence centre

IBM Corp. launched its ninth Linux competency centre Tuesday, a financial services-focused center based at IBM's offices in London.

The Linux Centre for Financial Services in London aims to provide a hands-on test environment for financial institutions and banks considering a move to Linux, IBM said. In rooms near the staff cafe in IBM's offices in London's South Bank, a range of servers and demonstration desktops has been set up running IBM software on Linux. Training sessions and analyst briefings will also be held in the center, IBM said.

Computacenter PLC is an IT services company and an IBM partner, working with the company on the test center. Computacenter's IBM Strategic Business Director, Shaun Davies, said the center is a "great shop window" for customers interested in Linux.

It is hard to find reference sites for Linux "because companies don't want to show what they're doing, because (Linux) gives them such competitive advantage," he said.

Computacenter has its own test center at its head office in Hatfield, England, where it has set up a multimillion dollar site with most of IBM's hardware range, allowing potential customers to run load testing and proof of concept before deciding what to buy. That center, set up 15 months ago, will provide full testing facilities for customers interested by what they see at the IBM competency center, he said.

ISVs (independent software vendors) can also use Computacenter's site, Davies said. "They can do proof of concept, load testing, and also benchmarking because we have a multi-vendor environment," he said.

The centers are about "derisking the Linux decision," Davies said.

Morse PLC of Brentford, England, another IBM partner, sells mostly proprietary Unix-based systems to the U.K. finance industry. Last year Morse looked at the growth of Linux, "and I had to tell the company that if we didn't pay attention, we'd lose £20 million (US$32 million) to it in 02/03," Group Strategist Darren Thomson said.

Cost is the main driver towards Linux for most companies, he said, with IT managers being driven to do more with less each year. A center where they can test it out, "with the IBM wrapper around it," gives them the confidence they need, he said.

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