SuSE, one of the four major companies selling Linux, estimates the distribution deal will give 20,000 customers the opportunity to try out SuSE. The agreement also permits IBM to sell its Netfinity servers with SuSE preinstalled, the companies said this week at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Jose, Calif.
The version of SuSE used in the distribution deal is set up so that people can boot from the CD and try out Linux. They also can install Linux from the CD.
SuSE has versions of Linux that run on three of IBM's four major server lines: Intel-based Netfinity, Power-based RS/6000 and mainframe S/390.
The company markets chiefly in German-speaking countries and is planning an initial public offering.
IBM also has support relationships with Red Hat, TurboLinux, Caldera and MandrakeSoft.
Linux is chiefly popular on chips made by Intel; Intel has invested in Red Hat, SuSE, TurboLinux and other Linux companies. But Linux also runs on a wide variety of other CPUs.
AMD, Intel's chief rival in desktop computers, hopes to capture the attention of Linux programmers with its upcoming x86-64 chips, the first code-named Sledgehammer.
SuSE is helping to create critical programming tools for Sledgehammer, and Red Hat will provide a version of Linux for Sledgehammer, the company said.