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IBM Touts Linux Momentum

NEW YORK -- Two of IBM's top executives made a number of announcements at a LinuxWorld press briefing Wednesday and weathered challenges about why IBM is not offering a Linux indemnification program for its customers to protect them from any legal action in the ongoing battle over Linux.

IBM General Manager of Linux Jim Stallings unveiled a key security certification and a number of customer wins for Linux, but didn't make it through the question and answer period without facing questions from the media about why IBM hasn't offered to protect customers from legal action regarding Linux.

IBM is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against SCO Group, which claims the Armonk, N.Y., computing giant is misusing trade secrets regarding the Unix operating system.

Stallings, joined on stage by Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of Technology and Strategy for the IBM Server Group, repeatedly stuck by the company's position to see the matter through in the courts.

Wladawsky-Berger vigorously defended the company's position, refusing to bow to "gossipy" interpretations from the media, which he compared to the tabloid-like show "Entertainment Tonight."

In less contentious matters, IBM announced a new Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level certification for SuSe. The Common Criteria is a standard for defining security technology, and Common Criteria EAL certification is vital to companies that want to sell to government and security conscious businesses.

IBM's eServer family, including iSeries, xSeries, pSeries and zSeries an Opteron systems, running SuSe Linux Enterprise Server 8 with Service Pack 3, has achieved Controlled Access Protection Profile, or CAPP/EAL 3+.

This, according to Stallings, represents a significantly "higher level of confidence" in the IBM hardware and SuSe software combination. IBM and SuSE scored EAL 2+ in August for IBM's xSeries line.

This means government businesses can purchase IBM machines, opening up considerable opportunities for the company to extend its Linux tendrils for big contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense.

This was made possible by the addition of an auditing subsystem in SuSe Server 8 that tracks critical events, as well as the inclusion of security functions that protect network transmitted data.

Stallings said IBM is working on acquiring Common Criteria certification for z/VM, the company's virtualization technology for allowing mainframe customers to run hundreds of instances of Linux on a single zSeries machine, in 2004.

In other zSeries news, Stallings also announced the latest release of the company's integrated platform for e-business on zSeries, which provides software components for expanding portal usage and access with single sign-on.

IBM Integrated Platform for e-business on zSeries version 2, release 3, can ramp up Linux deployment on IBM mainframes via hardware and software combinations.

Stallings also said IBM's pSeries and iSeries machines are primed for SuSe and Red Hat on IBM's Power architecture, noting that customers such as winery Kendall-Jackson and National Semiconductor are running Linux on pSeries and iSeries, on which there are a combined 320 Linux-ready software applications that are ready to use.

IBM announced its first significant Linux on Power last year when it brought blade servers into the realm of 64-bit computing with its first blade server based on the Power architecture. The eServer BladeCenter JS20 system employs Linux on Power chips to offer customers an alternative to using Intel's Xeon processors.

There are other instances of IBM girding up for a huge Linux barrage for the marketplace, which is gaining momentum, according to analysts.

Last week, IBM announced new features for its next-generation DB2 Universal Database, code-named Stinger.

According to IBM, this includes support for IBM's 64-bit Power architecture, which is geared for Linux clusters. Moreover, Stinger will also support version 2.6 of the Linux kernel, which will help IBM's database clusters scale higher and perform faster.

The ability of Linux on PowerPC systems to scale up and scale out is a key market driver for IBM to expand its PowerPC architecture, according to Redmonk Senior Analyst James Governor, who discussed how IBM is optimizing its Linux systems by bundling its infrastructure software, such as DB2, on its platforms.

"The whole idea with 64-bit is -- nothing without an application," Governor told internetnews.com. "IBM is very keen to get DB2 supported on Linux so IBM can help people tackle the problems of scaling up and scaling out because if you have a fat database that performs millions of transactions you'll want to scale out its performance."

Governor said he sees IBM infusing PowerPC throughout its product lines in the next year, noting that IBM's 64-bit PowerPC is mature and is primed for high-performance systems.

"Anybody who doesn't think the PowerPC is a platform is an architecture that IBM is not fully committed to bring to the industry better think again," Governor said. "IBM may support Itanium, but it is not going to cede the market to Intel."