Linux Entices IBM, Oracle

The growing acceptance of Linux as an enterprise OS has captured the attention of consumers and market giants alike. Until recently, Linux was seen primarily as a developer's tool. Now it's increasingly common to see it doing heavy lifting alongside OSes from industry leaders such as Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., and Sun Microsystems Inc. In reaction to this trend, both Oracle Corp. and IBM have decided to embrace the platform and get in on the Linux action.

This could mean big things for the OS: Support from two such influential companies surely will make Linux a more tangible and widespread option for businesses.

IBM is in the process of rolling out Linux support across all its servers and software platforms. In fact, some IBM systems, such as System/390 and Netfinity, already run Linux like a charm.

And if there's one thing for which IBM is known, it's service, even for systems outside its own ward. IBM not only provides all the frontline support for its own hardware but also for systems running on Windows NT and Windows 2000.

Businesses can count on similar around-the-clock support for the company's Linux-based products without worrying that the vendor will pass the buck to the Linux distribution company or, even worse, to some open-source developer in Kuwait.

Of course, supporting Linux can be costly if your company is an all-Windows shop. But if you currently use AIX, Solaris, or other flavors of Unix, your administrators will pick up the Linux lingo easily.

In short, Big Blue's support of the platform makes it a safe investment for companies that currently rely on IBM products. And IBM plans to contribute its enhancements to the open-source community. This is mutually beneficial: Linux will enjoy the fruits of Big Blue's labor and IBM will gain greater support from other Linux developers.

Whereas other vendors are supporting Linux in a haphazard way, Oracle is committed to the OS as a primary platform for its software, on par with AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, Windows NT, and Windows 2000. This approach is not surprising from Oracle, which is too savvy a company to ignore the growing flocks of Linux consumers on the horizon.

By using a common code base across all its platforms, Oracle makes itself a lot more appealing to customers, who will spend less time perusing features matrices and more time solving business problems.

Although a few foundational issues, such as clustering support and manageability, remain problems for Linux-based Oracle products, they should be viewed as potholes, not roadblocks. In fact, Oracle's Parallel Server technology is currently under test on Linux; upon release it will provide an infrastructure offering both availability and performance.

By adopting Linux, neither IBM nor Oracle commit radical operational changes.

But the pace and comprehension with which they are bringing the platform on board signals the readiness of Linux for prime time.

Senior analyst P.J. Connolly covers enterprise services. Address your virus-free e-mail messages to pj_connolly@infoworld.com. Kevin Railsback is the West Coast technical director of the InfoWorld Test Center. You can reach him at kevin_railsback@infoworld.com.

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