Linux Backers Grab Chance

IT users see OS as a viable, low-cost alternative to Windows

With the economy still slowing and corporate spending tightening, many Linux backers believe they have a significant weapon in the battle for IT dollars: low cost and adaptability.

But that tells just part of the story for Linux hardware and software developers, who are confident that Linux offers a solid server and client alternative to Windows at a time when XP, its latest version, which shipped to PC makers last week, is meeting some resistance from IT managers.

Linux momentum will build this week at the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco, where IBM will announce the September availability of its WebSphere Commerce Suite on its Zseries Linux mainframe platform, at a cost of $45,000 a processor.

The attraction of this solution is that it allows a large number of virtual servers to run on the platform, providing users with ease of management and cost savings, IBM officials in Armonk, N.Y., said.

That is good news for enterprise customers such as Cambia Networks Inc., a wireless network infrastructure provider in Chicago.

"Were banking on continuous improvements in the operating system and innovations from Intel [Corp.] and IBM on the software and hardware sides," said Ikhlaq Sidhu, Cambias vice president and chief technology officer.

The base cost for Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux 7.1 Professional Server vs. Microsoft Corp.s Windows 2000 Server, without adjustments for volume or other licenses, is $180 for Linux and $1,199 for Windows, according to the company Web sites.

On the hardware side, IBM this week will announce two new 1U xSeries servers, the IBM eServer x300 DC Power Model and x330 DC Power Model.

Cambia will be using the x330 DC Power Model and is building its Cambia Mobile Data Server solution around it and Linux. "This ... holds huge potential for IBM to redefine how carrier-grade infrastructure is built and deployed," Sidhu said.

Hewlett-Packard Co. is also targeting telcos, independent software providers and e-businesses with its triple-layer Secure Operating System Software for Linux, to be unveiled at LinuxWorld. Secure OS is aimed at bringing enterprise-level security to Linux, particularly for those systems deployed on the boundary, officials said. Secure OS is priced at $3,000 a system.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company has also expanded its management tool offerings for Linux to encourage greater development on the open-source platform and will demonstrate TopTools for Linux, a Web-based tool that manages and tracks network resources while monitoring performance.

Intel is moving to better serve Linux development around its chips and will preview updated programming tools. The Santa Clara, Calif., company will demonstrate new compilers that translate Linux applications written in C++ or Fortran into commands that Intel Pentium 4 or Itanium chips can execute.

Innovation also continues around the Linux desktop, which has made far less headway in terms of adoption and market penetration than the server. But even desktop vendors are targeting services and features at the enterprise. For instance, Ximian Inc. will announce two new services centered on Red Carpet, its software management application. One, Red Carpet CorporateConnect, lets companies manage and control Linux desktop software and versions used internally. "It also lets administrators create and manage private, secure channels for company software standards and custom internal applications," said Nat Friedman, Ximian co-founder and vice president of product development, in Boston.

The other service, Red Carpet Express, provides customers with priority, high-bandwidth Internet downloading and updating of Ximian and third-party software hosted by Ximian, Friedman said.

Ximian also will announce the availability of two new shrink-wrapped software products that contain the latest version of the Ximian GNU Network Object Model Environment, or GNOME, interface: Ximian Desktop Standard Edition and Desktop Professional Edition. Both will contain a preview release of Evolution, its personal and workgroup information management tool for Linux and Unix-based systems.