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IBM wooing smaller businesses to Linux

At its DeveloperWorks Live conference, the computing giant unveils a Linux software bundle as part of its effort to court small and midsized businesses.

SAN FRANCISCO--IBM is continuing its support for all things Linux.

At its DeveloperWorks Live conference Thursday, the computing giant said it is courting small and midsized businesses with a new hardware and software bundle. The package includes IBM's eServer xSeries Intel-based servers running Linux; the WebSphere application-server software, technology that runs e-business and other Web site transactions; and the DB2 database, IBM's software for storing, managing and retrieving data.

IBM did not disclose pricing for the bundle, but company representatives said the products are less expensive as part of a combined package.

The computing giant also announced a new Linux program on its DeveloperWorks Web site, offering programmers free trial copies of Linux-based development tools and e-business software, as well as free online technical support and tutorials that provide step-by-step instructions on building applications.

The program, called "Speed-start your Linux app," includes a free CD featuring the WebSphere application server, DB2 database and Lotus collaboration software.

In 2000, IBM underscored the importance of Linux to its business by pledging to invest $1 billion in the operating system.

IBM also reiterated a familiar theme Thursday: grid computing. In a keynote speech, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of IBM's technology and strategy, called grid computing the future of the Internet.

Gartner analyst George Weiss says IBM must invest heavily in its partner programs to generate momentum.

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Grid computing is the collection of lots of computers and storage systems into a single computing resource. For example, Wladawsky-Berger said, IBM has worked with the University of Pennsylvania to build a grid for breast cancer research. As a result, hospitals, doctors and researchers can share mammograms for early detection and diagnosis, he said.

In other news, IBM announced co-marketing alliances with software makers Integrated Distribution Solutions (IDS) and Systemcorp. The company, which previously struck deals with larger software companies such as SAP and Siebel Systems, has begun targeting smaller, lesser-known companies in specific industries. IDS, for example, focuses on software for the food business, while Systemcorp makes software for managing projects.