IBM Widens Embrace of 64-Bit Linux

With a strategy dubbed Linux-on-Power, Big Blue is pairing its Power platform and Linux as a way to expand its reach into 64-bit computing.

IBM has been a champion of Linux for several years—extolling the virtues of the open-source operating system running on its xSeries systems, which use industry-standard 32-bit Intel Corp. processors.

But the company lately has been ramping up a major initiative to push Linux on its iSeries and pSeries servers, which use IBMs family of Power processors, as a way to expand its reach, particularly as an entry point for 64-bit computing. A focal point of the strategy, dubbed Linux-on-Power, this year will be IBMs PowerPC 970 processors.

The Linux-on-Power group, which was established in January to promote the initiative, is responsible for its own profits and losses and has engineers dedicated to the task of improving the open-source operating system. The company also was a major presence at the LinuxWorld conference in January in New York. Just last week, IBM said it will sell its p670 and p690 systems with Linux operating systems from Novell Inc. and Red Hat Inc. installed.

Customers see the value in IBMs latest Linux move.

Engineers with Black Hills Corp. have been using IBM iSeries servers running the AS/400 operating system for about 10 years and Intel-based systems running Linux for several years.

So when executives decided last year to install an IP-based video security system at the entrances and exits of the companys building, IT administrators quickly determined that marrying the iSeries servers to Linux made the most sense. The two iSeries 825 servers, running on IBMs 64-bit Power4 chip technology, gave the security system the high availability and flexibility it needed, while Linux running on logical partitions in the boxes provided a scalable, easy-to-use operating system, said Jeremy Frie, networks systems manager of the Rapid City, S.D., company.

"What we required we got by using the iSeries, which is high hardware availability," said Frie, who has been running the new security system for about six months. "With Linux we can add resources on the fly. ... Weve been an AS/400 iSeries shop and a strong Linux user for quite some time, so [bringing the technologies together] wasnt a real scary situation for anyone."

Stories like that bring a smile to the faces of IBM executives working on the Linux-on-Power initiative and who see a real benefit to running PowerPCs even in the face of increased interest in 64-bit alternatives.

IBM last year rolled out the eServer 325, which is based on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s 64-bit Opteron and is targeted at scientific and technical computing users and IT shops with mixed 32- and 64-bit computing environments. But IBM officials are skeptical about the demand for systems using Intels 64-bit Itanium chip and AMDs Opteron and see an opportunity to expand the footprint of Power-based systems. Since the launch of the 325, IBM has not introduced any new Opteron-based systems.

Next page: Sun, HP also find value in Linux.