As the Linux community gathers in San Francisco this week for the LinuxWorld conference, two of the industrys largest companies will use the show to put the squeeze on Sun Microsystems Inc.
Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM are each planning to roll out aggressive product and marketing programs designed to lure Solaris customers from Sun to their respective Linux offerings.
HP will announce its Software Porting Express Service, while IBM will roll out its Solaris-to-Linux program. Both take aim at Sun customers running Solaris on SPARC that may be considering less expensive and less proprietary platforms.
“We are significantly expanding our capabilities and staffing in that area and will be deploying a SWAT team of several hundred Linux migration experts,” said John Sarsgard, vice president of Linux Solutions for IBM, in Somers, N.Y. “They will work closely with our sales teams [and] be able to quickly prepare an assessment of a customers IT infrastructure and develop a comprehensive blueprint for transitioning to Linux.”
Linux distributors say the moves by HP and IBM are a sign that Linux is a serious enterprise platform. “Sun is the most vulnerable player here, as Solaris/SPARC is completely proprietary and very expensive,” said Mark de Visser, a vice president at Red Hat Inc., in Raleigh, N.C. “They are the sitting duck, and the industry is taking aim.”
One Sun customer considering such a move is QualTel Inc., a Portland Ore., telecommunications software and services company. Chief Technology Officer John Pucknell said the company has already ported its software from Solaris to Linux and is testing on IBM X330 systems that are Network Equipment Building Systems-compliant.
QualTel, whose primary customer base is in Asia, plans to consolidate its more than 500 Sun Netra servers to IBM X330 servers once testing is complete. “So far, running Linux on IBM X330s is working just fine. Our customers are looking for value, reliability and want to reduce their rack space. This solution offers that,” Pucknell said.
As part of its attack against Sun, IBM will announce the eServer X335, a 1U (1.75-inch) rack-optimized server designed for Web serving.
This two-way server runs Linux and Windows and “will appeal to customers with distributed applications but more so to the Linux cluster market, where people are building Linux clusters with more than a thousand nodes,” IBMs Sarsgard said.
IBM will also introduce an integrated and validated Linux cluster offering, known as the IBM eServer Cluster 1350, which is based on the eServer X335 and X345 and includes storage, third-party networking and cluster management software.
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For its part, HPs Software Porting Express Service will allow users of Unix environments such as Solaris and IBMs AIX to evaluate and assess a port to Linux for a fixed fee.
Mike Balma, a Linux business strategist for HP, in Cupertino, Calif., said the company will be offering LinuxWorld attendees the service at no charge for the duration of the show. “If people have their code or access to their code, they can bring it to us, and well run it through the tools and have experts there to evaluate that,” Balma said.
Another company that has also moved part of its infrastructure from Unix to Linux is L-3 Communications Corp., an aerospace and defense contractor in New York. L-3 has integrated hundreds of HP three-dimensional workstations running Linux into its examiner 3DX 6000 machines, which are used for explosives detection in checked luggage at airports in the United States and abroad.
Joe Paresi, president of security systems and vice president of product development at L-3, said Linux is more cost-effective and offers an easier transition than to Windows.
“We felt [Linux] is mature enough and cost-effective enough, and there were companies out there that could support our ongoing development needs,” Paresi said. “Linux also offers a community development process that works to quickly help solve problems.”
Sun officials dismissed the moves by HP and IBM as “nothing more than their acknowledgment of our strength in the server space,” said Jack OBrien, manager of Suns Linux business office, in Menlo Park, Calif. “Our competitors are clearly becoming more concerned as we fill out our product line with Linux products based on the Intel [Corp.] x86 architecture.”
Sun will use this weeks conference to launch a new edge server, a general-purpose x86 server, the Sun LX 50. It will carry a single or dual Pentium III processor and come with Linux and Solaris 8 for x86. Pricing will start at just under $2,800, OBrien said.
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