IBM, Red Hat reach new accord

IBM Corp. and Red Hat Inc. have expanded their relationship over the Linux operating system, a move expected to boost the services on offer to joint customers and broaden Big Blue’s hardware and software support for Red Hat’s Linux distribution, the companies announced Monday.

IBM has agreed to begin offering Red Hat Linux Advanced Server on its entire line of servers, a company executive said. The vendors have also created a formal services program in which they will share responsibility for supporting customers who use a combination of software and hardware from IBM and Red Hat.

“This market is past an early adopter stage,” said John Sarsgard, vice-president of worldwide Linux sales programs for IBM, noting that IBM and Red Hat have long collaborated on products and customer support. “It’s time to formalize all these kinds of arrangements,” he said.

By the end of the year, customers will be able to purchase Red Hat Linux Advanced Server for IBM’s iSeries, pSeries and zSeries servers, the companies said. Linux Advanced Server had previously been available only on IBM’s Intel Corp.-based xSeries servers, according to Sarsgard.

IBM’s iSeries machines have traditionally run the Armonk, N.Y., company’s proprietary OS/400 operating system, he said. They will now support partitions running Red Hat Linux Advanced Server. Red Hat’s operating system will run natively on the pSeries machines, which use RISC (reduced instruction set computer) chips and have traditionally run Unix, as well as IBM’s zSeries mainframes, the companies said.

The arrangement means that IBM and Red Hat will tie their product release cycles more closely together moving forward. “Every time we do a release on the Intel platform, we will follow with a release that is functional for the other three platforms,” said Mark de Visser, vice-president of marketing at Red Hat, in Raleigh, N.C.

The new hardware support for Red Hat Advanced Server will also equate to more IBM software tuned for the operating system, such as its DB2 database software, Lotus and Tivoli products, as well as the WebSphere application server software, according to IBM. That is a “ringing endorsement” for Red Hat’s Linux distribution, de Visser said.

“Committing major application support to this platform makes it easier to get more software vendors to support us,” he said. Other applications that run on Red Hat’s operating systems include Oracle Corp.’s Oracle9i Real Application Cluster software and financial data software from Reuters Group PLC.

Linux is not new to IBM’s product menu. The company has long promoted and invested in the operating system, and has had a close relationship with SuSE Linux AG, in Nuremberg, Germany, to offer it’s Linux operating system on IBM hardware. It has also made previous versions of Red Hat’s operating system available for various hardware products.

Now that IBM and Red Hat have agreed to work more closely on product support, the companies have created a customer support model that will allow either company to take the lead on major enterprise accounts. Customers will be able to “contract with one company for services. You call one number for support and we handle everything else for you,” Sarsgard said. “We both have substantial interest in the services market around Linux.”