IBM joins NEC, Hitachi and Fujitsu to improve Linux for business

Responding to customer requests in Asia, IBM has joined with Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd. and NEC Corp. to expand the development of the Linux operating system for wider business use.

In an announcement today, the four companies said they plan to pool resources so they can add features to Linux sought by businesses that want to use the operating system.

Lisa Lanspery, an IBM spokeswoman, said all four companies have seen greater numbers of customers in the Asia-Pacific region ask about Linux and how to incorporate it into their servers.

But before that can be done, customers want to see improved usability and scalability, as well as other features that will allow Linux to better serve enterprise computing, she said.

By working with NEC, Fujitsu and Hitachi, IBM believes it can make the needed improvements in a more streamlined development cycle.

"This is how our company feels we can get more technology out to our customers at a faster rate," Lanspery said.

The companies will work with the Linux community to develop various open-source projects, according to the group.

Among the tasks being undertaken are a serviceability project designed to enhance problem isolation in running systems, as well as scalability and Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) capabilities for Linux.

Demand for Linux-based servers is rising quickly in Japan, where NEC, Fujitsu and Hitachi all are located. Last October, Framingham, Mass.-based IDC predicted that shipments of Linux-based servers last year would total 41,200 in Japan, an increase of 144% over the previous year and accounting for 7.8% of all server shipments last year.

"Linux is rapidly becoming an enabler of e-business," said Daniel Frye, director of the IBM Linux Technology Center, in a statement. "This move today will help ensure that Linux gains in functionality and will ultimately provide technology decision-makers a greater choice for their server environment."

Akira Ozora, general manager of Fujitsu's Linux division, said in a statement that "Linux has risen with remarkable speed to become an Internet server standard." He added that his company wants to help with Linux's continued development to benefit its customers.

Stacey Quandt, an associate analyst with Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass., said the partnership is a means to an end for IBM.

"IBM wants to accelerate the maturation of Linux, and the addition of error and event logging, a kernel debugger and crash dump capabilities will in large part help close the gap between Unix and Linux," Quandt said.

"The ultimate goal is to sell IBM middleware and hardware," she said. "IBM is using Linux as a tool to drive the profit model out of the operating system as a means to put a stranglehold on Microsoft and Sun."

Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst with IDC in Framingham, Mass., said the alliance is as interesting for the companies not involved as for the four that are.

"Anything that moves Linux forward is going to be popular with the Linux community," Kusnetzky said. But other important Linux companies, such as distribution vendors Red Hat and SuSe and hardware vendors that have made Linux commitments such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Computer Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp., are not in the newly-created alliance.

"I'm just wondering why those people aren't part of this," Kusnetzky said.

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