Small step for IBM; giant leap for Linux

IBM Corp. announced what it called the biggest ever commercial use of Linux, inking a deal to outfit a Japanese convenience chain called Lawson Inc. with more than 15,000 IBM eServers running the alternative OS.

IBM Corp. announced Thursday what it called the biggest ever commercial use of Linux, inking a deal to outfit a Japanese convenience chain called Lawson Inc. with more than 15,000 IBM eServers running the alternative operating system.

"We think this will be the largest Linux installation in the world," said John Callies, IBM vice president, xSeries servers.

officially announced the win two days ago in Japan.

IBM said the deal calls for nearly every one of Lawson's 7,600 stores to install two Linux servers, which will feed Windows-based "Loppi" self-service multimedia terminals. These terminals will allow customers to perform a variety of tasks, including downloading music and video clips, as well as purchasing airline and concert tickets online.

Under terms of the deal, IBM also will provide Lawson with deployment and application-migration services. The parties declined to disclose the value of the deal.

"Lawson needs almost 7-by-24-level reliability," Callies said. "They want to do backup in a way that allows them to switch between servers cost-effectively and efficiently."

Callies declined to say which Linux distribution IBM will pre-load on the Intel-based xSeries systems for Lawson, claiming that Lawson did not want that information made public. IBM has partnerships in place with a variety of Linux vendors, including all of the big four -- Caldera Inc., Red Hat Inc., TurboLinux, and SuSE Inc.

But sources close to the deal said Red Hat Linux will be the Linux distribution that will be pre-loaded on Lawson's servers.

Red Hat confirmed it was part of the Lawson deal. "We are very pleased that Lawson has chosen Red Hat," said Paul McNamara, vice president of Products and Platforms. "This is a very large scale project which validates the global customer affinity for the Red Hat brand and demonstrates continued strengthening and monetization of our strategic relationship with IBM."

Aberdeen: Linux is here to stay
The Lawson deal is not only significant for IBM, but for Linux as a whole, said Bill Claybrook, research director for Linux and open-source software with market researcher Aberdeen Group Inc. Claybrook said he considered the Lawson win to represent the largest number of servers sold pre-installed with Linux.

"The (Lawson) deal doesn't mean Linux is suitable for all enterprises, but it does have the potential to help all of the Linux companies," Claybrook said.

Claybrook said he believes IBM won the deal not only because of its growing reputation as a company that's serious about Linux, but also because it has a true global network for service and support.

And according to new data released by International Data Corp. Japan, Linux currently represents 8 percent of all server operating systems sold in 2000. Server-based Linux, in terms of units sold, grew more than 144 percent from year-to-year in Japan, IDC said. Windows NT dominated the Japanese server operating system market for the year 2000, with more than 60 percent share, while Windows 2000 commands another 18 percent, IDC added. Unix came in with roughly 9 percent share, by IDC Japan's estimates.

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