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Commentary: IBM's support is an important early step for Linux

Big Blue's Linux push will help increase the credibility of Linux in the enterprise sector.

By George Weiss, Gartner Analyst

IBM's Linux push will help increase the credibility of Linux in the enterprise sector.

IBM sees an opportunity--as it did with Unix in the 1980s--whereby it can be a leader and a driving force of new applications in the evolving next-generation Internet ecosystem. IBM does not want to be perceived as sitting on its hands and letting other firms grab the initiative, as Sun Microsystems ended up doing with Unix.

But the Linux movement is fraught with potential hazards if companies such as IBM act too hastily. For example, the lack of standards, frequent releases, and variety of Linux distributions on Intel and various RISC implementations will increase the complexity of support.

In addition,

See news story:
IBM ups Linux support with laptops
the earlier investment craze over Linux has died out, and most Linux-only companies are struggling financially. Without financial props for companies specializing in Linux hardware and open-source software, asking Linux to take on a pervasive role in enterprise architectures is that much more risky.

Accordingly, enterprises must be cautious about which vendors and products they bet on. Failures among Linux companies could have strong ramifications and may put the onus on IBM and other system sellers to contribute technically and financially to the well-being of the Linux community.

To determine the long-term role of Linux in enterprise computing, the industry must wait for further evidence of IBM's willingness and sincerity to launch a full-scale Linux commitment.

In particular, IBM must determine how Linux will affect Project Monterey--i.e., AIX for Intel and PowerPC--IBM's declared mainstream enterprise Unix strategy.

(For related commentary, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.