Fujitsu Siemens makes long term bet on Red Hat

European hardware maker Fujitsu Siemens has agreed to make servers and workstations available preloaded with applications from Linux developer Red Hat

Fujitsu Siemens signed an agreement with Red Hat on Thursday that allows it to preload its servers and workstations with the Linux maker's full range of enterprise applications. Although the European hardware manufacturer does not expect to see any great returns for itself for a few years, it expects the open-source operating system to have made a huge impact in the enterprise by 2007.

The deal means that Fujitsu will offer its customers hardware that is preloaded and preconfigured with Red Hat's Linux-based products, which means enterprises will not have to bear the cost of purchasing the applications separately and installing them in-house. The Fujitsu Siemens Intel-based Primergy servers and Celsius workstations were fully certified for Red Hat's applications in preparation for the move. Fujitsu is hoping to eventually provide a complete consulting, installation and support solution, but it admits this may take "a couple of years".

A spokesman for Fujitsu Siemens said he sees the Red Hat deal as a long term manoeuvre. He explained that at the moment, Linux is usually used with Intel-based servers, but he expects this to change in the near future: "We already see that Linux has a market in the enterprise, but on a different range of systems -- like workstations and smaller Intel servers. Fujitsu is driving the long-term development to give Linux more enterprise capability for larger systems, but that will take some time," he said. Fujitsu currently sells a range of enterprise servers based on Sun's SPARC processors for running large SAP and Oracle installations on the Solaris operating system. Both SAP and Oracle now support Linux, and a Linux port is available, called UltraLinux.

Paul Salazar, European director of marketing at Red Hat, admitted that hardware makers have been slow to embrace Linux because supporting another operating system adds to their development costs. However, he pointed out that despite these costs, all of the big manufacturers are now in agreement about Linux's future: "It represents a clean sweep. Early on, Dell saw Linux as a huge opportunity; IBM made a $1bn commitment three years ago. And now, Fujitsu Siemens is admitting that in two or three years, Linux is definitely the right choice. Anytime someone wants to publicly embrace and reinforce their Linux strategy, it is a good thing," he said.

On Tuesday, Fujitsu Siemens launched a twin CPU workstation based on AMD's 64-bit Opteron processor, which the company today confirmed will also be available preloaded with Linux and Red Hat applications.