Previously IBM has made Linux available on Netfinity systems, but only through its reseller partners. Merisel has offered TurboLinux preloaded on Netfinity systems. KeyLink Pioneer has carried Red Hat Linux on Netfinity, and Ingram Micro has offered IBM customers both Red Hat and TurboLinux preloaded on IBM's servers.
On Monday, IBM announced immediate availability of Caldera's OpenLinux eServer product preloaded on its own Netfinity systems. IBM officials said the company expects to offer Red Hat Linux 6.2 and TurboLinux's TurboLinux in "some or all geographies" by the end of May.
IBM is negotiating to add the fourth major Linux distribution, SuSE Linux from SuSE Linux AG, to its list of optional Netfinity Linux preloads, said Rich Cohen, program director for IBM's PartnerWorld for Developers, Netfinity. He said IBM expected to close the SuSE agreement within the next month or two.
IBM already offers direct purchasers of its Netfinity servers a choice of NT or Windows 2000 preloaded. Cohen said IBM is looking to add "additional operating systems" to its list as time goes on. Likely candidates include The Santa Cruz Operation's UnixWare and IBM/SCO's Project Monterey IA-64 Unix offering that is under development.
Cohen said he expects ISPs and application service providers (ASPs) to be first out of the gate, in terms of interest in Netfinity boxes preloaded with Linux. As time goes on, however, Cohen said he expects to see corporate customers running line-of-business applications ordering Linux-based Netfinity systems from IBM.
IBM has become increasingly bullish on Linux's prospects on the server. In addition to offering Linux on Netfinity PC servers, IBM offers Linux on its S/390 mainframe and is working on bringing Linux compatibility to its AS/400 midrange server.
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