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PeopleSoft makes the Linux leap

The company partners with IBM to convert its business applications to run on Linux-based IBM hardware and software.

Business software maker PeopleSoft is jumping on the Linux bandwagon and calling on IBM for a hand up.

PeopleSoft said it will announce plans at a customer conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday to convert its entire line of business applications, which includes more than 170 products, to run on the open-source Linux operating system. Peoplesoft will continue to sell its software on Unix and Windows operating systems.

In a development partnership with IBM, PeopleSoft will use Big Blue's Linux-based servers and software to rework its own applications for Linux. PeopleSoft sells software, such as human resources and financial applications, to businesses to help them run their operations. The company competes with SAP, Oracle and other companies in the business software market.

PeopleSoft is making the shift to Linux because of the open-source operating system's maturity and because of customer interest, said David Sayed, technology product marketing manager at PeopleSoft.

"What we heard from customers is that now is the time to start using Linux for mission-critical applications--that Linux is ready for prime time," Sayed said.

In particular, customers are looking to save money on operating system licenses and are eager to use cheap Intel-based servers, he said.

Currently, PeopleSoft has one application that runs on Linux--a Web server.

As part of the IBM deal, PeopleSoft has committed to developing Linux applications using IBM's own Linux wares, including the xSeries Intel processor-based servers, the WebSphere Java middleware and the DB2 database software. PeopleSoft expects to complete the transition to Linux by the fourth quarter this year.

Linux, which is maintained primarily by independent programmers in their spare time, has evolved from a hobbyist's operating system popular with developers to a viable corporate operating system fully backed by the likes of IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Intel.

PeopleSoft is not the first business application company to commit development dollars to Linux. Rival SAP has had some of its applications running on Linux for at least four years. But PeopleSoft's move is significant because companies are showing increasing interest in Linux applications, said Adam Jollans, Linux strategy manager at IBM.

"Customers have gone from using Linux at the edge of the network for things like Web servers over the last year or two to using (Linux) for business applications because they want the benefits of reliability and cost," Jollans said. "As Linux moves into the application space, packaged applications like PeopleSoft are becoming more important."

PeopleSoft, like many business software makers, has suffered financially from stingy corporate spending on business software. In April, the company warned that 2003 profits would be lower than a year ago and that it was cutting 200 jobs from its payroll.