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IBM expands Linux offerings for e-commerce servers

The company on Wednesday is expected to debut a component of its e-commerce WebSphere server that runs on Linux, continuing its effort to bring the operating system to its larger server systems.

IBM on Wednesday is expected to debut a component of its e-commerce WebSphere server that runs on Linux, continuing its effort to bring the operating system to more of its larger server systems.

Using WebSphere Commerce Suite Start 4.1 running on Linux, businesses can buy and sell products, build catalogs, and run customer loyalty and relationship management programs. The software is targeted at companies looking to establish business-to-business and business-to-consumer operations.

"We're initially providing the WebSphere Commerce Suite Start on Red Hat's distribution of Linux, which is now available, then (following) up with support for Caldera, SuSE and Turbolinux" by the end of January 2001, said Ed Kilroy, general manager of IBM's e-commerce software group.

The announcement is the latest initiative in IBM's strategy to incorporate Linux across its product and services portfolio for customers in the Internet service provider, application service provider and telecommunications markets.

Earlier this year, IBM announced plans to bring Linux to its mainframe computers--powerful servers with a loyal following among business users but a declining market share compared with that for cheaper Unix server designs.

The Linux programming code is distributed freely and can be modified by software developers, two factors that have helped it gain popularity as a program for running servers. Last year, a quarter of the new server operating system software shipped was Linux, according to research firm IDC, which expects Linux to be the fastest-growing program for running servers in the next four years.

Though one of the first, IBM is not the only big software maker tapping Linux for its e-commerce applications. Oracle has begun shipping a version of its application server software that helps businesses create e-commerce Web sites. The software processes Web transactions and serves as a traffic cop between a Web browser and a back-end database.

"But IBM might (have) the nicest e-commerce suites running on Linux out there," said Mitch Kramer, an analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group. "This is good for users. This is an application server, so it shortens the time it takes to get a system running online using Linux."

Kilroy said that more of IBM's e-commerce WebSphere applications, like WebSphere Suite Pro and eMarketplace edition, will be running on Linux sometime in 2001.

"WebSphere support in the e-commerce sector is important," said IDC analyst Albert Pang. "A lot of e-commerce activity is global, so the easier it is to roll out a system across as many platforms as possible the better. (IBM is) making it possible for its customers to be able to do this."