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Compaq has bolstered the availability of Linux on its Alpha platform with the launch of Red Hat Alpha Deluxe on its Unix servers.

Alpha Deluxe will be available on Compaq's AlphaServer DS and ES series and all Compaq AlphaStations. In addition, Red Hat Linux 7 will come bundled and pre-loaded on selected Compaq ProLiant Servers and selected Compaq Deskpro models.

Gary Kerrison, AlphaServer product marketing manager, said that, despite a notable lack of publicity, Alpha was the first Risc-based architecture on which Linux was available and that AlphaServers running Linux are widely deployed, particularly in high performance technical computing markets. This includes distributions including SuSe and TurboLinux, as well as Red Hat, he added.

Kerrison added that users would deploy Linux on Alpha when they needed "every ounce of performance" from the operating system, or what he described as "extreme Linux". The availability of Red Hat Alpha Deluxe means it is qualified to run on specified AplhaServers, Kerrison added.

In essence as Linux matures with features like increased scalability that will be delivered with the 2.4 kernel, Compaq wants improve its standing in the Linux marketplace both with its own users and software developers.

Last year, Compaq and Red Hat agreed to develop interoperability between Compaq Tru64 Unix and Red Hat Linux; and Compaq recently added Linux driver support. This interoperability parallels the binary compatibility offered between Linux and AIX by IBM and has broadly the same aim - to persuade independent software vendors to write applications which can run on its platforms.

Alpha has always been an excellent technical platform, in particular it's featured 64-bit technology for years while Intel's IA-64 processor has slipped further and further into the future. However, lack of packaged software has been a problem for Alpha, with software vendors always showing more enthusiasm for Windows, Solaris and now Linux development. Making Linux available on Alpha therefore makes sense because it will increase the range of applications available - however the sting in the tail here is that these may not be optimised to run on the platform.

Alpha on Linux is only likely to be attractive to Compaq's installed base and may be affected by the same market factors that affected Compaq's decision to abandon development of Windows 2000 on Alpha last year.

This decision was allegedly made in order to simplify its product offering but the suspicion that lack of enthusiasm for the platform from one very powerful software developer - Microsoft - lingers. ®

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