Vocal Linux Supporter

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2004-03-01 Print this article Print

Zeitler said that IBM has been a vocal supporter of Linux for several years, which it considers a key differentiator for the company from competitors such as Sun, HP and Dell Inc.

"We have been early proponents of this and consistent proponents of this," Zeitler said. "Sun, while they now claim support for Linux, for a long time were trying to protect the Solaris franchise. A lot of [Linuxs] success is substituting against traditional RISC-Unix platforms. If you look at whats really happened underneath market-share shifts over the last few years, [theres] pretty dramatic erosion in the low end of the RISC-Unix space on four-way systems, substituted by Linux on Intel or Linux on virtual partitions."

Connors said the company has offered Linux on its Power platform to customers for a few years, but it wasnt until last year that the company decided to crank up the research, development and marketing around the pairing.

IBM continues adding programmers to its Linux Technology Center. Of the nearly 300, a quarter are focused on improving the operating system through enhancements to such technologies as device drivers and compilers, Connors said.

"Were bringing in and leveraging the technology by bulletproofing and improving the base Linux," Connors said.

At the same time, the company has upgraded its software, such as the WebSphere application server and DB2 database, to support Linux running on Power-based machines. As a result, it is seeing greater interest among ISVs to write software to the platform, Connors said. More than 175 applications can run on Linux on Power.

Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata Inc., said IBMs Linux-on-Power push is not without risks. The company could put a lot of money into it and find it isnt paying off; but IBM executives cant let it distract them either, Haff said.

"Its a little bit of a gamble ... but if IBM can make a play with 64-bit Linux on Power, that would be a big win," said Haff, in Nashua, N.H. "Its a worthwhile gamble because theres certainly more of an upside than a downside."

Zeitler said he doesnt see much of a gamble. The Linux-on-Power initiative will enable IBM to run more workloads on its servers, which can only mean more business for the company, he said.

For customers, the idea of marrying an open-source operating system to a robust 64-bit architecture is attractive. National Semiconductor Corp., which makes analog-based products, in January started to consolidate 15 Unix servers onto two p690s running Linux and IBMs AIX 5L Unix operating system in logical partitions. The systems will run many of National Semiconductors larger back-end applications, including Oracle Corp. databases.

Lorraine Cappellano, manager of Web and Unix technology at National Semiconductor, in Santa Clara, Calif., said the Power architecture, with its logical partitions, gives the company the flexibility it needs to move resources—such as CPU power and memory—dynamically between partitions, based on demand. Consolidating on two systems also frees up data center space.

"If you run Linux on Dell, yeah, thats good, but how many boxes are you going to need?" Cappellano said.

Black Hills Frie agreed. Using the iSeries with Linux for the building security system has given the company ideas about expanding Linux on Power to other areas of the infrastructure."It made sense to us on a hardware consolidation basis," Frie said. "Weve got limited space, so we decided this would be a proof of concept for [future Linux-on-Power projects]."


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