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Investors plug Linux for phone work

A trio of venture capital firms has banded together to try to foster businesses that use IBM and Linux technology for telecommunications purposes.

An international trio of venture capital firms has banded together to try to spark businesses that use IBM and Linux technology for telecommunications purposes.

The three venture capital firms--3i, Mayfield and Worldview Technology Partners--announced Telecom Venture Coalition on Tuesday. TVC will help foster relationships between start-ups and IBM, which sells servers and aggressively backs Linux but which has less of a presence in the telecommunications industry than rivals Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

"This coalition...will work to surface innovative new technologies, speed time to market and ultimately contribute to the growth of the entire industry," said Mike Hill, general manager of IBM's global telecommunications group, in a statement.

Two companies the coalition has funded include Intelliden, which designs products that let large customers quickly configure many types of networking products; and Convedia, which is building servers that can run numerous phone-related services, such as voice mail, phone menus or conference calls.

Linux is an open-source operating system similar in many ways to the venerable Unix that's popular with telecommunications companies. While Linux has caught on for low-end servers and for computing tasks in financial services companies, the relatively young operating system is only starting to catch on among telecommunications customers.

That could change. The Open Source Development Lab (ODSL), a technology coalition that counts many of the world's largest computing companies as members, has been working on "carrier-grade," or high-end and crash-proof, improvements to Linux. Several telecommunications companies joined the OSDL in 2002.

In addition, Linux sellers including , MontaVista Software and SuSE now have carrier-grade products available for this market.