IBM sheds Internet group to increase focus on Linux

Despite the closure of IBM's US-based Internet division, local officials maintain the focus on e-business has not waned.

"With the Internet already pervasive throughout the organisation and our products, the need for a focused group no longer existed," Jack Verdins, marketing manager, business transformation and integration software at IBM Australia, said.

In fact Verdins claimed IBM's plans for Linux reinforce the e-business banner. These plans, he said, include the formation of a new unit at US headquarters to oversee the company's work on the open-source operating system.

"The evolution of e-business will be enhanced by the adoption of open standards," Verdins said.

"XML (Extensible Markup Language) and data exchange allows the portability of applications, with users gaining a greater choice of platforms."

Under the new effort, IBM -- which first announced plans to support Linux nearly two years ago -- will focus on improving the user interface and interoperability of Linux with other operating environments supported by IBM, such as its AIX version of Unix, OS/400 and Windows NT.

All IBM server platforms will support Linux and the company intends to work closely with the open-source community as the operating system evolves.

The company will also set up a 200-person Linux development team with centres in India and the US. At this stage, no plans have been made to host similar development teams in Australia.

The goal is to make Linux more palatable to companies attracted by the growing popularity of the operating system but wary of its open-source roots, analysts said.

The growing support for Linux by all of the major system vendors "will certainly speed up the acceptance of Linux as a serious alternative to Windows 2000 and to some Unix versions", according to Bill Claybrook, an analyst with Aberdeen Group.

The growing popularity of Linux, particularly for smaller applications, also makes it important for vendors such as IBM to support it more fully, said Rich Partridge, an analyst at DH Brown Associates.

"Linux seems to have caught the fancy of a broad enough market that IBM wants to make sure it fully embraces it," Partridge said.

IBM already supports Linux in a number 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.

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