What's behind Intel Corp.'s seemingly sudden discovery of the joys of Linux?
First and foremost, say industry experts, Linux provides Intel with access to the much-coveted Internet Service Provider (ISP) market. Intel is expected to make several Linux-related announcements at the ISPCon trade show -- including an investment in Linux developer Red Hat Software Inc.
Indeed, Intel has been pushing for the last year to make a splash in the ISP market, taking advantage of their thirst for high-end servers and growing roles as distributors and resellers of Internet products. And with ISP owners' not-so-secret devotion to the Linux operating system, an investment in Red Hat seems a logical culmination to a year that has seen a growing frequency of Intel demos flexing its Linux muscles.
"We want to grow the volume of Intel-based server sales .... [and]we are targeting the ISP segment as a key market," says Scott Richardson, Intel's director of server marketing. "The reality is, a lot of ISPs set up Apache as a Web server and Linux as their OS." Apache is free server software that works with Linux.
Perhaps equally indicative of Intel's Linux plans, company officials confirmed that they will announce tomorrow its membership in Linux International, a non-profit group dedicated to bolstering the presence of Linux in the computing world.
But the ethereal nature of the two pending announcements has many ISPs wondering how Intel's announcement will affect them.
"I'm not sure what Intel is up to in this move, because most Linux boxes already run on Intel processors," says Stefan Hudson, network administrator at Monterey Bay Internet. "Are they going to start packaging their own boxes? If so, we would have little interest in that."
Intel motivation unclear
Industry analysts are quick to score Intel's pending announcements as a win for the Linux community, but at least one agrees that Intel's motivations remain somewhat cloudy.
"ISPs are being looked at as the next wave of resellers because they deal with end users so much," says Neville O'Reilly, director of consulting at TeleChoice Inc., an Internet research shop. "It won't hurt Intel's push to target ISPs ... but it's all about Intel trying to sell more and more non-Windows stuff these days."