For the first time, IBM's DB2 program can run on Linux, according to Jeff Jones of IBM's DB2 group. The move was expected, as the software had been in beta testing for the past several months.
Still, the introduction of a Linux version of one of Big Blue's most prestigious software products is another sign of the gradually increasing respect given to the upstart Unix clone. The "open source" software is more popular among programmers and in small-scale servers, but Linux developers have aspirations that their operating system will be used widely in heavy-duty servers as well.
IBM becomes one of several database companies to support Linux. Earlier this month, Oracle released version 8i of its database software for Linux, and Sybase and Informix have released Linux software as well.
Different companies are supporting Linux in different ways. While database software companies have jumped on board, other business software firsm have been slower to embrace Linux. SAP, which sells very complex software, has decided to support Linux, but its competitors haven't.
IBM is folding Linux support into its servers based on Intel and PowerPC chips and also is supporting the operating system within its high-profile services group. While it's a relatively incremental addition to its huge array of products and services, it's significant philosophically because of the credibility of the IBM name.
Sun Microsystems hasn't gone as far, instead helping others to "port" Linux to its chips and contributing to software called lxrun that translates Linux programs so they can run on Sun's Solaris operating system.
SGI has gone much farther, betting its future product lines on Linux and contributing some of its own software to the open-source community so it can be incorporated into Linux.
Compaq sees Linux as a way to sell its Alpha chips and plans to help developers by selling its Alpha compilers. And like Hewlett-Packard, Compaq sells Intel-based servers ready for Linux.
Dell preinstalls Red Hat's Linux on its servers, workstations, and business desktops, and the company plans to offer it on laptops in the future, a spokesman said.
The Sun-Netscape Alliance plans support for Linux for several of its products, according to spokeswoman Kate Blatt. Its directory server software is available for Linux, its messaging software is in beta testing, and its Web server software will begin beta testing this fall, she said.
The Netscape Application Server, higher-powered software that converts information from a database into a form a Web browser can understand, won't be available for Linux for the time being, she added. Contrary to some reports, "there was never a plan to port the application server to Linux," she said. The product is targeted solely for high-end computers with eight processors or more, and Linux isn't proven for more than four.
The DB2 software's price is based on the number of processors the program uses, Jones said. IBM formerly also based the price on how many people used the database software, but the company dropped that scheme because it was too complex and because the arrival of the Internet means thousands of millions of people might need to access a database.