Linux OS planned for IBM hardware

Underscoring the strategic importance of its e-Server announcement last week, IBM Corp. and Red Hat Inc. Monday announced a joint agreement to jointly produce native versions of Linux that will fully exploit IBM’s proprietary hardware platforms including its newly named I, P, and Z series.

The two companies also announced this week that Linux versions of IBM’s key middleware would be available on all three proprietary platforms, including DB2 and Websphere for Linux on the S/390.

“In each case we will jointly produce a version of Linux that goes right down to the metal and will be fully exploitive,” said Scott Handy, IBM’s director of Linux Solutions Marketing, in Durham, N.C. “It will be similar to what we did on the S/390 where the open-source community contributed code to the kernel, then we engineer those changes to the base kernel and give them back.”

The new versions of all three, due out over the course of next year’s first and second quarters, are not intended to replace the existing operating systems on those platforms, formally known as OS/400, AIX, and OS/390. Instead, the new Linux versions will complement those proprietary versions, which IBM officials say they will continue to aggressively enhance.

IBM, in Armonk, N.Y., and Red Hat, in Research Triangle Park, N.C., already have available a version of Red Hat Linux for IBM’s Intel-based X Series, formally known as line Netfinity.

“This is a very user-driven strategy that says we have chosen the fastest-growing server operating anywhere as an option to the e-Server line but we are not taking any options away,” Handy said.

To help users with porting applications from one platform to the other, IBM has announced the second versions of its Application Developer Kit for Linux, which includes in Visual Age for Java, DB2 Universal Data Base, Enterprise Edition for Linux and Websphere Application Server Advanced Edition for Linux, and Lotus Domino for Linux.

“For the first time a user can [take] this application software and run it on Red Hat Linux and than also be able to run it across the spectrum of e-Servers ranging from things like small rack mounts to the largest mainframes,” said Paul McNamara, vice president of products and platform at Red Hat.

The advantage of a native version of Red Hat Linux for IBM’s mainframes is that users have the option of running the open-source operating system in a partition, or now natively where it can control hundreds of lower-end, distributed Linux servers from a central location.

This sort of flexibility, according to IBM and Red Hat officials, gives users with e-business applications the option of where they want those applications to reside. They can put the application on a Web-based front end that has direct access data on the mainframe, or now put the application itself up on the mainframe.

“I think the interest we have seen from customers wanting to run Linux on a mainframe is testament to how far it is come. Just two years [ago] the press and analysts would ask me if commercial users would ever use Linux,” McNamara said.

IBM officials said the deal with Red Hat is not exclusive and that the door is open to it to announce similar deals with its other strategic Linux partners that include Caldera, SuSe, and Turbo Linux. IBM officials, however, declined to say when and if such deal would be announced.

The software will be downloadable from Red Hat’s site at