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RealTime IT News

Linux Gets U.S. Government Stamp of Approval

SAN FRANCISCO -- IBM and SuSE Linux Tuesday say they have propelled the Linux operating system from a geek tool to a major business platform with a new security certification.

The two companies announced that SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 has achieved Common Criteria Security Effectiveness Award Level (EAL) 2 running on IBM eServer xSeries running IBM and AMD processors. Common Criteria (CC) is an internationally recognized ISO standard (ISO 15408) used by the U.S. government and other organizations to assess security and assurance of technology products.

IBM vice president Irving Wladawsky-Berger said he was extremely pleased with the validation of Linux saying the open source operating system shows continued maturity and promise.

"Four years ago, we thought at the time that Linux would be one of those disruptive technologies that would have an impact on IT," Wladawsky-Berger told reporters. "It has been nothing short of wonderful."

Under Common Criteria, products are evaluated against strict standards for various features, such as the development environment, security functionality, the handling of security vulnerabilities, security related documentation and product testing.

Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM said it should achieve EAL 3+ by the end of the year and EAL 4 status in the next 18 months or so. IBM and SuSE say they'll commit releasing key components of the Common Criteria evaluation to the CCeLinux Consortium and Linux development community, by the end of the month.

Other top-tier Linux players such as Red Hat , Oracle , Hewlett-Packard and others are also working on similar certifications.

The official recognition is basically a government meal ticket for IBM and SuSE who will now be first or second in line with Federal and international contracts that require this level of certification.

IBM Linux general manager Jim Stallings said he knew of at least a dozen U.S. Department of Defense contracts based on Linux that the company has in queue. The company maintains a $1.6 billion business with the federal government. SuSE vice president of Development Markus Rex said the German government was also working on a major bid with the city of Munich.

"We are pleased that Linux has reached this important security milestone through the joint efforts of IBM and SuSE," said Fritz Schulz, Defense Information Systems Agency. "The Common Criteria certification of Linux will be a critical factor as Linux is applied to mission critical environments."

In addition to the Common Criteria certification, SLES 8 on IBM eServer platforms is excpected to meet the Common Operating Environment (COE) standard later this year. The specification is used to verify the look and feel and function of software products as they are joined with government customized code. The COE is also the standard computing environment across the U.S. Government command and control systems.

Big Blue is betting big on Linux, forecasting along with analysts that the market will grow from $2 billion to more than $5 billion in 2006. The company currently maintains nine Linux competency centers including one in Beaverton, Oregon that specializes in small to medium businesses. IBM also staffs about 3,000 Linux expert consultants. Four years ago the company said that number was about 300.

"Our focus is helping ISVs and getting business partners. We have about 6,000 on board," said IBM Linux general manager Jim Stallings.

Chinese Open Systems Association president Dr. Hsu, Ching-Chi said the Taiwanese government expects to increase Linux by 30 percent in the next three years.

Hardware maker NYFIX vice president Jim Strasenburgh said his company switched from a UNIX house to a Linux one and plans on saving 20 percent of his company's current operating costs.

"We see Linux as a system that has the power and scalability that we need," he said.

To help promote the Linux as a business tool image, IBM said it is poised to launch a massive ad campaign including television spots airing in early September.