IBM Unveils Linux IM

The company will announce at LinuxWorld that its Lotus Sametime IM platform will support Linux. Meanwhile, HP will introduce its Debian Linux effort.

IBM is taking instant messaging to Linux—on both the desktop and server.

The company will use the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, taking place Aug. 14-17 in San Francisco, to announce that its Lotus Sametime IM platform will support Linux.

"This move will mark the first time that the millions of Linux users worldwide will have the ability to run this real-time collaboration platform on both the desktop and server in a 100 percent Linux environment," said Scott Handy, IBMs vice president of worldwide Linux strategy, in Armonk, N.Y.

A Java-based desktop version of the product was previously available, but that has been completely rewritten using the Eclipse RCP (Rich Client Platform) technology, Handy said.

The client version of Lotus Sametime for Linux is expected by September, with the server product due in the first quarter of 2007. A version for Apple Computers Macintosh also will be available early next year, Handy said, adding that all versions will come off a single code base, which also will be the only code base used going forward.

"We have now proven to ourselves that this single programming model that spans Windows, Linux and the Mac is now ready. This follows our single programming model for the server, where we standardized on Java," he said.

That single code base benefits enterprise customers because their applications can be supported across multiple environments, which, in turn, helps them integrate Linux into their environments in a cost-effective way, said Handy. "So there is a lot of goodness in what is happening here," he said.

Some Linux and open-source users, such as Larry Tieman, senior vice president for IT business solutions at FedEx, in Memphis, Tenn., want Linux-based open-source solutions because they offer "greater choice and more overall value to remain agile and competitive," Tieman said.

The Sametime for Linux move follows IBMs recent decision to let the upcoming Sametime 7.5 release connect directly to public IM services from Yahoo, AOL and Google. In addition, when the client is run on Windows, it can integrate into Microsofts Office suite of applications.

"There is a certain amount of benefit to Microsoft of having Office integrated into ISV applications. We know that people who want to collaborate on desktops have Windows environments and Office, so we are being very pragmatic about this and getting maximum market acceptance," Handy said.

One of the big inhibitors with Linux for IBM—that Lotus Notes had not been available—was removed last month when Notes for Linux was delivered. Current Notes customers will be able to switch to the Linux or Mac versions of Lotus Sametime at no cost as it is covered by their existing licenses, Handy said.

For its part, Hewlett-Packard, of Palo Alto, Calif., will use LinuxWorld to announce global support for the Debian Linux distribution. The move is in response to growing customer requests, said Jeffrey Wade, a manager in HPs open-source and Linux organization.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about Debian adding the OpenVZ virtualization software to its "unstable," or development, distribution.

"Debian offers customers a different type of value proposition in the edge of the network, network infrastructure and environments where they have custom-developed software. Linux is now stable, reliable and robust enough to meet their needs, and some customers are not necessarily interested in paying an annual subscription [to Red Hat and Novell] for software updates and the like," Wade said.

HP will provide support for Debian should those users want it, Wade said, adding that the company has been using Debian in custom kernel development work for some years now. "As such, we have already developed a level of expertise and support around this," he said.

HP also will announce a new thin client based on Debian Linux. It will be the first thin client that has an extensible image, allowing open-source software packages to be downloaded. This allows complete customization of the thin client into a single-purpose appliance-like device, Wade said.

On the virtualization front, HP will demonstrate at the show its upcoming support for Xen in its Virtual Machine Manager—a common console that lets users manage virtual machines in their environments. The beta will be available in September.

Al Gillen, vice president of system software at IDC, in Framingham, Mass., expects to hear a lot about virtualization software at LinuxWorld. "This is a hot topic and is on the minds of customers who want to know how this affects them and their products," he said.

"But the biggest unanswered question is how these multiple operating systems will be managed in a virtualized environment, and whether these tools will be integrated into the operating system or offered by third-party vendors," Gillen said.

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