Microsoft, IBM launch Linux tug-of-war

Archrivals IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp. will formally roll out software and technical support programs at the LinuxWorld Exposition next week in hopes of luring corporate and third-party developers either toward or away from Linux environments, respectively.

IBM’s Microsoft NT-to-Linux-Migration Program will be available for the most part through its business partners. It will offer tools and training classes to help wean developers from NT to Linux. IBM executives believe the program’s introduction is well-timed given Microsoft’s plans to discontinue the availability of NT by year’s end.

“There are millions of users still using NT, but technical fixes go away at the end of this year. If they are going to get off NT, they will need help figuring out the hard decisions about what new hardware and applications to buy,” said Adam Jollans, Linux strategy manager at IBM’s software group.

Hardware cost is another reason Jollans believes the programs will appeal to NT users. By migrating to Linux, users and developers have a broader choice of hardware platforms, ranging from low-cost Intel servers to several different Unix or IBM proprietary platforms, all of which are interoperable. “Linux will give them flexibility of choice for sure, but it also makes it easier for them to consolidate lots of existing Intel-based servers up on a higher-end Unix or mainframe platform,” Jollans said.

Another IBM program, Move2Lotus, offers developers who use NT-based versions of Microsoft Exchange tools and services to move to Lotus Domino on Linux. Developers can also get discounts on software and services for customers who migrate to Domino for Linux and run it on IBM’s eServer zSeries.

Pulling against IBM’s push, Microsoft will formally unveil Version 3.5 of its Windows Services for Unix. The release adds support for multi-threading Unix applications and clustering. As an added incentive, Microsoft will make the software free of charge. Previously the company charged US$99. Other features include a series of enhanced cross-platform tools for better blending Windows- and Unix-based environments, improved Unix command-line administration capabilities, and better integration between Unix applications and Microsoft’s .Net.

“For Unix users who like what they see in the Windows applications portfolio, (Version 3.5) might be a good way to preserve existing (Unix) apps where they need to. It is not like someone will rip out a Unix environment just because Unix Services for Windows is available. In most shops that have either Windows or Unix, the other environment is there side by side,” said Al Gillen, research director for system software at IDC.

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