Chiphopper Ports x86 Apps to IBM Platforms

IBM's "Chiphopper" program automates for ISVs the process of porting their software that runs x86 hardware to IBM's zSeries and Power architectures.

IBM is encouraging ISVs to port their software that runs primarily on x86 hardware to all its hardware platforms through "Chiphopper," which refers to the chips hopping from its x86 to zSeries and Power architectures.

"Chiphopper will automate that process for ISVs, and we expect this to dramatically increase the number of ISVs that support the rest of our hardware platforms with their software applications," Scott Handy, IBMs vice president for Linux, in Somers, N.Y., told eWEEK in an interview ahead of this weeks LinuxWorld Conference in Boston. "The program will be immediately available to ISVs worldwide."

The new Chiphopper program is formally known as the IBM eServer Application Server Advantage for Linux, and has five main elements. The first is a set of tools that IBM will provide to the ISVs to check their code for portability.

One of these tools is the LSB (Linux Standards Base) application check tool, which checks to make sure the application will run cross-distribution. "We are also supporting six programming extensions beyond LSB, which are OpenSSL, OpenLDAP, Kerberos, PHP, Perl and Python. Also included is IBMs tool Hopscotch, which looks for chip specificness in the code," Handy said.

Once the code runs through and passes these tool checks, the applications are tested on non-x86 hardware. IBM will provide free access to IBM innovation centers, where ISVs can test their application live or virtually on all the different hardware platforms, he said.

The third element is a new "Ready for IBM eServer with Linux" mark, which ISVs can use on their Web site and box, showing customers the application is backed by IBM and is Chiphopper validated.

The fourth part is IBM offers sales and marketing help with the application and, lastly, IBM will give the ISVs post-sales support once the application is in production. "This is the first time weve done this for our ISV partners. If the application, after all this, works on x86 but not on the other Chiphopper-supported programs, we will give them free support," Handy said.

Some ISVs, such as Peregrine Systems, which is a charter member of the Chiphopper program, worked with Big Blue to port its ServiceCenter 6.1 to Linux on Power. "Chiphopper provides us with the support structure to leverage the cross-platform flexibility offered by Linux, enabling us to deliver cost-effective, scalable solutions to our customers," said Craig Macdonald, Peregrines vice president of product marketing and management.

IBM found that all the hard "stuff" around going cross-platform had already been done by the Linux distribution partners. The real "chip hopping" occurs at the Linux distribution level and so Red Hat has a single source code version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux that it recompiled across the x86, Power and zSeries architecture. Novells SuSE Linux unit did the same thing with a single source code version that it autobuilt and recompiled across all the supported platforms.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRed Hat is set to unveil its new Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Click here to read more.

"So theyve done the hard work on the device driver differences and the install differences and that aspect, so they have already chip-hopped across the various platforms. We can now offer chip hopping for an ISV above that in a much easier fashion," Handy said.

In short, IBM will be stressing to them that if they already have a Linux application, it makes sense for them to port it across Linux for eServer, including Power and zSeries, and Big Blue will give them an assurance, including free support and a mark that says, "Ready for eServer with Linux" for that, Handy said.

IBM already has some 6,000 applications that run on Linux x86, a number it plans to double by the end of 2007, and 1,000 on Linux on Power, and expects more of those 6,000 applications to come across to Power and zSeries.

While many ISVs initially only wanted their applications to run on Linux on the mainframe or Linux on Power, once they saw this program they expressed interest in all the platforms, Handy said. "So thats promising to us and, in addition to just getting Linux x86 applications across to the other platforms, a lot of new ISVs are going to come and join our program because of this," he said.

Big Blue will also be announcing Solaris-to-Linux and Windows-to-Linux feeder programs to grow the number of Linux x86 applications. "The overall strategy here is to lead on Linux x86 and lead on the multiplatform front," Handy concluded.

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.