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Red Hat IPO to cap busy Linux trade show

The marketing frenzy caused by the computer industry's adoption of the Linux operating system shows no signs of abating, and one of the biggest noises at a Linux conference next week will come from Red Hat's IPO.

The marketing frenzy caused by the computer industry's adoption of the Linux operating system shows no signs of abating, and one of the biggest noises at a Linux conference next week will come from Red Hat's IPO.

Red Hat, the leading seller of the Linux operating system, is scheduled to go public in the middle of the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Jose, California. Institutional investors are scheduled to buy their shares on Tuesday, with trading by the general public scheduled for Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for Goldman Sachs, a firm underwriting the initial public offering.

The 6 million shares Red Hat will sell to institutional investors at a predicted price of $10 to $12 each, Red Hat said. But all eyes will be focused on where the shares actually price out Tuesday--conceivably during Linux leader Linus Torvald's keynote speech on the future of Linux--and at how much the shares trade for on Wednesday.

The Red Hat IPO is the first of several planned Linux-related IPOs, with others including VA Linux Systems, Caldera Systems, LinuxCare, and Cygnus Solutions. Though these companies are at various stages in their plans, sources have said the attention garnered by Red Hat's IPO has accelerated those efforts.

Red Hat's IPO will surely cause a buzz, but many other companies will use next week's show as a launch pad for updated Linux plans.

Caldera companies join Motorola
The efforts of Caldera Systems and its sister company Lineo to tailor a version of Linux for gadgets, appliances, and other systems where users are shielded from computing complexity will bear fruit with an announcement of a partnership with Motorola.

Motorola's computer group will announce network appliance and other rugged products such as the "emServer" using Linux software from the two companies, industry sources said. In addition, Motorola will offer training and other services to help people use the products. The work is targeted at devices such as factory floor robots and the telecommunications business, and Motorola believes the open-source nature of Linux will make it cheaper and quicker for companies to base their products on Motorola's computing devices.

Caldera also plans to announce a version of its OpenLinux software to run on Sun Microsystems' UltraSparc chips--the company's first foray off Intel chips. Caldera Systems ported OpenLinux with the help from Sun and Erlangen University in Germany.

Motorola and Caldera Systems declined to comment on the plans.

Sun has a strategy to enable Linux products using its own hardware, and one such effort will be unveiled at the show. Bell Micro will show systems built around Sun chips and motherboards.

Linux on Merced
VA Linux Systems, which has been working to translate Linux so it will work on Intel's upcoming Merced chip, will show a version running on a simulator of Merced, chief executive Larry Augustin said. VA plans to have Linux servers based on Merced when the chip arrives in quantity some time in 2000, he said.

The tight cooperation with Intel is an interesting shift from many past Linux porting efforts, which took place with informal help from the manufacturers or none at all. That fact led to long delays between the chip's availability and the ability to run Linux on it.

VA also will show new servers that can be stacked in dense configurations and new management software to make it easier to administer dozens or hundreds of Linux computers. For the management system, VA has written Linux software to take advantage of special management features on Intel motherboards, with which remote administrators can turn computers off and back on, find out if fans or other hardware have failed, and perform other such tasks.

The software will be released to the open source community, although the work for the Merced chip will have to wait until the new chip is publicly available, Augustin said.

IBM's momentum
IBM probably has the largest array of computing hardware, software, and services on the planet. Its Linux push has penetrated most of the company, and Big Blue plans LinuxWorld announcements that cover the gamut.

IBM has placed Linux on par with server operating systems from Microsoft, Novell, and Santa Cruz Operation, and the company will debut its first server that was designed with Linux. This machine, the relatively low-end Netfinity 3500, will be able to hold up to two Intel processors, said IBM's Alex Yost.

IBM will demonstrate a Linux-based system offered by Wherehouse Music that lets customers in a music or video store use a kiosk to read the barcode of a product they're thinking of buying, then listen to the CD or watch the video, said Mike Riegel, an executive for Linux on Netfinity servers. The system, which is in use at 12 stores so far, uses an IBM Linux server connected to Linux-based kiosks.

Hillhouse Hammond, an insurance firm in the United Kingdom, also will announce that it's using 290 Netfinity servers running Linux, Riegel said, with 40 in company headquarters and another 250 at branch offices.

In another business move, IBM will set up a center to help SAP translate its business-planning software to Linux on Netfinity servers.

Departing from the Intel-based server realm, IBM will tout its Linux consulting and support services and show a computer design based on its own high-speed PowerPC 750 copper processors using LinuxPPC's version of Linux for the PowerPC chip.

The LinuxPPC work is taking place on computers left over from the IBM's old common hardware reference platform (CHRP) strategy to make cheaper desktop PCs that could run either Windows or MacOS. The strategy is to create a system with the power but not the expense of IBM's PowerPC-based RS/6000 servers, said Jason Haas of LinuxPPC.

SGI, Corel, games, and more
Among many other announcements: • SGI will demonstrate a high-availability cluster of Linux servers running Oracle database software, a version of its Director software that balances loads across several Linux servers. In addition, at the Siggraph conference happening at the same time, SGI will show a version of its OpenGL Performer software to a select audience, sources said. The Performer software, which optimizes graphics display tasks using software to let the hardware perform faster, is part of SGI's push to make combine Linux with its graphics heritage.

• Macmillan Software, part of the publishing company, plans to announce partnerships to bring round-the-clock technical support to its version of Linux, Mandrake. Mandrake, being produced by 40 developers at MandrakeSoft, is based on Red Hat but made easier to use, according to the developers. The software is on sale at 4,000 retail stores.

• Corel has said it will have a beta version of its version of Linux designed for computing novices. The company is using Linux as a way to sidestep its troubles competing with Microsoft in selling office programs such as word processors and spreadsheets and has been cooperating with Debian on the Linux version and with Wine on getting its Windows programs to work on Linux.

• Magic Software will unveil its eMerchant software for Linux, the company's e-commerce software offering that's a key part of the company's change from selling programming tools to selling the programs themselves. Magic also will have a live penguin, Mel, on hand.

• TimeCity developers will try to recruit new developers for its first-person, open-source, shoot-em-up game. The effort, initiated by Emmett Plant, involves about 30 programmers, 20 others, but no profit motive, said spokesman Mark Johnson.

• In other gaming news, Loki Entertainment Software will debut its Linux version of Myth II: Soulblighter as well as demonstrate Civilization: Call to Power, its first Linux game, and show previews of Railroad Tycoon II.

• Cumetrix will join the growing number of companies selling cheap Linux boxes--in this case, $399 for a machine using a 350-MHz AMD chip.

• The Linux Store, among the first cheap Linux computer manufacturers, will show its Linux-based personal information appliance, or PIA, which costs $199.