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Linux company plans German lab

Linux NetworX inks a deal with Germany's Fraunhofer Institute to develop new technology and increase its European presence.

Linux NetworX, which sells supercomputers made by connecting numerous small Linux systems, has begun a partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute to develop new technology and increase its European presence.

Linux NetworX, based in Salt Lake City, counts among its customers several national laboratories, genetics research company Sequenom, Motorola and Boeing. The Fraunhofer Institute employs 110 scientists to work on mathematics with commercial applications, best known in the Internet realm for its patents in MP3 digital audio encoding.

Under the partnership announced Thursday, Linux NetworX and the institute will jointly research technologies for linking Linux systems into a supercomputer "cluster." In addition, the center will help the company support European customers such as the Netherlands branch of Shell Oil or the pharmaceutical company in Germany.

"We've had a need to support those customers with more of a presence there," said Brad Rutledge, a Linux NetworX spokesman.

Cluster supercomputers--often running Linux, sometimes its progenitor Unix and occasionally Windows--are becoming increasingly popular as an economical alternative in some cases to traditional supercomputers.

One of the challenges of clustered supercomputers, though, is revamping a computer program written for a single computer so that it runs across a group of computers. Linux NetworX and the Fraunhofer Institute will pool their research for this task, among others, the organizations said.

Intellectual property generated by the partnership will be jointly owned by both organizations, Rutledge said. Linux NetworX will have a small staff in Germany, but plans to expand it.

Mainstream companies pushing Linux clusters for supercomputing include IBM, Dell Computer and Hewlett-Packard.