Compaq Reinforces Support for Linux

Stung by IBM's high Linux visibility, company rolls out migration tools and other initiatives.

Compaq Computer Corp., irritated at the portrayal of IBM as a Linux champion, unveiled several programs aimed at enterprise users of the operating system.

IBM has been vocal in its commitment to Linux since it announced last year that the open-source operating system will be integrated into all of its platforms.

So Compaq, which sells more Linux-based servers than any other computer maker, according to International Data Corp., of Framingham, Mass., last week rolled out support for server clustering and software tools to enable the migration of applications between its proprietary Tru64 Unix system and Linux.

According to IDC, Compaq had a 30.5 percent share of all Linux server sales last year. Dell Computer Corp. was second with 13.7 percent, followed by IBM with 13.5 percent.

Houston-based Compaq also announced investment and participation in a Linux lab and a contest to help spur development of Linux applications for handheld devices, including the Compaq iPaq.

Speaking to reporters last week, Mike Winkler, executive vice president of global business, said Compaq has invested in open source for 10 years and was among the early proponents of Linux.

Stacey Quandt, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc., in San Jose, Calif., said Compaq was the first hardware maker to support Linux but that Compaqs close relationship with Microsoft Corp. probably spurred it to temper its Linux support. That enabled IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., to gain the higher Linux profile.

"They were the first hardware vendor that was really behind Linux," Quandt said. "They even gave [Linux founder] Linus Torvalds systems to work on and supported Linux since the early 90s.

"I think for a while Compaq was turning a blind eye to Linux" because of Microsoft, she said. "Now, IBM is definitely perceived as the leader overall in the Linux market."

Compaq said its new initiatives further illustrate its bond with Linux. Clustering could enable customers to build their own supercomputers by tying together hundreds of servers. The software tools and services will allow interoperability between Linux and Tru64 through common interfaces and applications for the two systems.

"It seems both companies have been advocating Linux a lot lately," said Stacey Son, vice president of hosting technology for Verio Inc., of Englewood, Colo., an operator of Web sites for businesses.

While Son said Verio will consider Linux solutions from either company, hes primarily pleased to see major hardware makers embrace the open-source software. "Finally, some of the big PC makers are taking Linux seriously," he said.