Standing in Linux

IBM may be too bullish, but new tools could boost use

Linux is "a disruptive technology" that will command 48 percent of all business servers by 2004, believes Samuel Palmisano, president and chief operating officer of IBM.

A disruptive technology is one that quietly encroaches on the established way of doing things until it overthrows what had been viewed as indomitable systems.

Citing International Data Corp. figures in a keynote address at LinuxWorld, Palmisano said Linux is gathering the strength to move out of its niche roles. "Linux is ready for real business, not just content serving. We are leaping across the chasm," he said.

But both Linux adherents and critics at the show agreed the system will need more applications written for it if it is to achieve its "disruptive" potential. That is, it could remain primarily a Web server, firewall tender and mail sender unless a broader base of client and business software is written for it.

Major development tool supplier Borland Software aims to provide a bridge between its large Windows-using community and users of Linux, which would give Windows developers a familiar format in which to build Linux applications.

Borland Chief Executive Dale Fuller said the companys new Linux tool will allow developers to build applications in a familiar manner — one reminiscent of Microsofts Visual Basic and Borlands Delphi tools. Dubbed Kylix, it will include a drag-and-drop component library, CLX, of more than 165 common application features. The CLX library will make it possible to quickly migrate existing Delphi applications to Linux, Fuller said.

"With Kylix, a Windows developer can make a smooth transition. This is the first time thats been available," said Volker Wiegand, president of SuSE, the largest European Linux distributor.

"Most visual [Windows] developers dont understand Linux that well. Hundreds and thousands of them can now be immediately productive," said John Corey, chief information officer at MandrakeSoft, distributor of desktop-oriented Mandrake Linux. "Now no developer has to make a bet one way or the other."

Kylix wont be available until late March, priced at $1,999 for a server developer version; $999 for a desktop developer version. A free, downloadable version for Linux hobbyists will be available at midyear, said Michael Swindel, director of product marketing at Borland.

Bernie Mills, vice president of marketing at CollabNet, predicted 2001 will not be the year Linux infiltrates business so much as the year that business adopts the notion that open source code may be good for it.