Chip makers cozy up to Linux

Intel and HP get chummy around an Itanium developer's kit, while AMD and Lineo pair off to support embedded Linux
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Everyone wants a piece of the Linux action -- even chip makers. Intel already has made plain its intentions to jump on the Linux bandwagon. Tuesday, the chip maker stepped up its Linux commitment by announcing, in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard, the release of a software developer's kit aimed at IA-64 Linux environments.

Just a day before, Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices(AMD) made some Linux news of its own by cementing a deal with embedded Linux specialist Lineo to build "advanced embedded Linux solutions" for Internet appliances.

Why now? Why the growing interest in Linux, beyond the obvious reason that the Linux server installed base is continuing on its upward growth spiral?

For longtime Microsoft backer Intel, the world isn't looking quite so homogeneous anymore.

"We are in the midst of unveiling and rolling out our most significant architectural development in 15 years," said Jason Waxman, Intel's IA-64 marketing manager, referring to Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip rollout, slated for later this year.

"Fifteen years ago, the developer community was more centralized. Now, we're making (the Linux IA-64 software developer's kit) available on the Internet, so as to reach the broader development community."

Starting Tuesday, Linux developers have been free to download from the Intel Web site or the HP site a copy of the IA-64 SDK. The kit includes an IA-64 simulator developed by HP labs that will allow application developers to begin writing 64-bit Linux applications on their Pentium III systems running any Linux 2.2-kernel-based operating system, according to Intel and HP officials.

The kit includes other relevant tools, as well, such as the standard GPC compiler updated for IA-64 from The Trillian Project -- a coalition of Caldera Systems, CERN, HP, IBM, Intel, Red Hat, SGI, SuSE, TurboLinux and VA Linux Systems, dedicated to bringing Linux to Intel 64-bit systems. A copy of Trillian's February developers release of its 64-bit Linux operating system also is part of the Intel-HP IA-64 SDK.

The goal of the Intel-HP Linux SDK is straightforward, said Mike Balma, director of marketing for open-source and Linux operations at HP. "This will help accelerate Linux application availability on IA-64."

The move to do so comes none too soon. Many of the operating systems players that have announced their intentions to field offerings running on Itanium are slated to deliver their first beta releases this summer.

Among the companies expected to deliver betas are Microsoft, The Trillian Project, the Project Monterey team, consisting of IBM and SCO, HP, which, in addition to working with The Trillian Project on Linux, also is developing a version of HP-UX for Itanium, and Sun Microsystems, which has said it will make its Solaris-on-Intel code available for IA-64.

While Microsoft and HP have offered developers some early development tools to begin writing 64-bit applications, many developers have complained that a dearth of 64-bit workstations has led them to delay porting or writing 64-bit applications. Simulators, such as the one introduced Tuesday by Intel and HP, offer one way to get around the hardware bottleneck.

Meanwhile, in the 32-bit world, AMD and Lineo announced Monday that they will collaborate on making available on AMD's line of embedded 32-bit processors the Lineo Embedix Linux operating system. The two plan to include Embedix in AMD development kits.

AMD has said it is interested in developing Linux-based solutions for the consumer electronics, Internet appliance and general embedded markets.

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