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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

IBM and Red Hat yesterday announced a deal that will see the two companies collaborate on the development, sales, and support of Red Hat's Linux Advanced Server operating system,

Timothy Prickett Morgan writes

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While the generic Red Hat Linux operating system is geared for desktops, workstations, and infrastructure workloads on modest servers with a minimum amount of services, the Linux Advanced Server edition of the Red Hat variant of Linux offers more scalability--up to eight processors in SMP servers--and more support and hand-holding than a small business or ISP would need. (A small business doesn't need a lot of services, and ISPs probably know more about Linux and how to make it sit up and bark than do any of the commercial Linux distributors.)

IBM and Red Hat have been partners since the company went public in the summer of 1998, but their relationship in the server market really started solidifying in August 2000, when the two companies announced that they would work together to create Linux distributions for IBM's eServer line when IBM underwent that rebranding of its former S/390, RS/6000, AS/400, and Netfinity server lines.

In November 2001, Red Hat promised again in yet another alliance deal that it would deliver versions of its eponymous Linux release that would run in 32-bit mode on IBM's 64-bit zSeries mainframes, pSeries Unix servers, and in partitions in iSeries OS/400 servers. (This second announcement seemed more like a pledge of allegiance than any real change in Red Hat's behavior.) Red Hat never needed much help from IBM to make its Linux editions available on Big Blue's Intel-based xSeries machines, since they use more or less standard components (excepting the "Summit" servers based on IBM's own chipsets, of course). In the interim, IBM has emphasized its relationships with Turbolinux Inc and SuSE AG for these non-Intel platforms, and Red Hat has been lagging behind them in terms of enthusiasm and product roll outs the zSeries, pSeries, and iSeries platforms. With Red Hat being the perceived and actual market leader in North America - IBM's home market - for Linux distributions, this was a bit awkward.

Yesterday's deal seems to indicate that Red Hat is getting more enthusiastic about the eServer line from IBM, and the reason is probably that IBM is ponying up the cash to have Red Hat create the ports of Linux Advanced Server for the zSeries, pSeries, and iSeries machines. Neither IBM nor Red Hat disclosed any financial terms of the latest deal, which only covers Advanced Server as it runs on the eServer line.

Under the deal, which is a multiyear agreement, the development teams at Red Hat and IBM will work together to port Advanced Server to the entire eServer line and tune it for the four different architectures encompassed under that brand. IBM will make WebSphere, Domino, DB2, and Tivoli products available on Advanced Server - and not just on this Linux when it runs on the xSeries, but sometime in 2003, IBM has promised these core IBM programs will work on Advanced Server as it runs on zSeries, pSeries, and iSeries servers. The playing ground for Linux Advanced Server will be level, at least in regard to server and middleware support. IBM Global Services and Red Hat Network have agreed to create a collection of services offerings to support different enterprise customers based on their current services and have agreed to create new, joint services offerings where necessary. Each company can sell the other's Linux services as part of the deal. The idea is the ever-elusive one stop shopping experience.

The IBM-Red Hat deal follows fast on the heels of a number of partnerships that Red Hat has inked with IBM's competitors in a number of different markets. In mid-August, we learned that Red Hat Linux is the core operating system that Sun Microsystems Inc is using in its new LX50 general purpose Linux servers. Only a few weeks before that, Dell Computer Corp and Red Hat announced an alliance to go after the installed base of Unix servers with a collection of migration services, capacity planning services, and platforms based on Red Hat Linux Advanced Server and Dell PowerEdge servers, and in June of this year, Dell, database maker Oracle Corp, and Red Hat ganged up to push the Linux-Oracle software stack on Dell iron into the enterprise. And at around the same time, Red Hat inked a deal with Hewlett Packard to push Advanced Server on the then-new "McKinley" Itanium 2 64-bit processors and on HP's ProLiant machines and its QuickBlade and Powerbar blade servers.

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