IBM pushes the Linux envelope

While some Linux companies are reevaluating their priorities, Big Blue is continuing to pull out all the stops for Linux across a variety of platforms

While some Linux vendors in recent weeks have been tossed about by stormy stock market waters, IBM is proceeding full steam ahead with its support of Linux.

On Monday, a variety of IBM divisions made a slew of Linux announcements. Among them: the company made public some details of its long-anticipated plan to bring Linux to its AS/400 server, the last of the IBM hardware platforms to obtain full-fledged Linux support.

IBM also announced strategies for preloading Linux on Thinkpad systems, delivering a Linux small business bundle to business partners and Linux distributors, and rolling out a new e-business-oriented Linux certification program.

Over the past year, IBM's push to support Linux has grown exponentially. But IBM's latest batch of announcements come at an interesting time -- right on the heels of some less-than-good news for a number of Linux distribution, application and service companies.

Last week, Linux distributor and application provider Corel announced it was laying off 320 people, more than 20 percent of its workforce. The week before, one of the four largest Linux distributors, TurboLinux, layed off an undisclosed percentage of its workforce, primarily those involved in sales and marketing efforts.

Both Corel and Turbo, according to company officials, are in the midst of reevaluating their priorities and refocusing their strategies.

Somehow, the Linux doldrums seem to have little impact on IBM's Linux commitment. On Monday, the company announced stepped-up support of Linux on a host of platforms, ranging from ThinkPad laptops, to RS/6000 workstations, to AS/400 servers.

IBM has already launched major marketing campaigns around its support of Linux on its PC servers and S/390 mainframes.

It also has taken steps to match for Linux the level of support it is providing for Microsoft's NT Server/Windows 2000 platforms. On Monday, IBM announced a Small Business Pack for Linux, consisting of the latest releases of Domino, DB/2 Universal database and WebSphere Application Server products, available for a promotional price of $499.

IBM currently markets a similar $499 NT Small Business Suite. Like its NT offering, the Linux suite is limited to 100 users per server. IBM is waiting for Linux vendor feedback before it decides whether or not to release a complete Linux Small Business Suite that could be resold and rebranded by the Linux vendors, said Scott Handy, IBM Software Group's director of Linux Solutions Marketing.

"The resellers and business partner channels told us to hit this price-sensitive Linux space with this offering," Handy said.

The Small Business Pack is available, starting June 13, for Caldera OpenLinux and Red Hat Linux. Versions for TurboLinux'and SuSE's Linux distributions are expected to follow shortly, Handy added. The $499 promotion price is good for six months, but IBM may opt to extend the program, Handy said.

"Last year, we were completely (Linux) distribution agnostic," Handy acknowledged. "That was the year of e-business enablement. But this year, we are helping each (Linux distributor) individually bring these solutions to market. We are creating specific programs tailored to each vendor."

To further this goal, IBM announced on Monday a new certification program aimed specifically at business partners who are providing e-business solutions on Linux.

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