IBM looks to spread Linux with 'Chiphopper'

Hopes new tools for creating Linux applications on multiple processors will help spur sales of its hardware.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
3 min read
IBM plans to launch on Tuesday a program to make Linux applications available across its entire hardware line.

Called the IBM eServer Application Server Advantage for Linux and code-named Chiphopper, the package includes tools aimed at programmers as well as support and marketing resources from IBM. Linux distributors and IBM partners Red Hat and Novell were involved in the development of the tools and endorsed the project.

By participating in the program, an independent software vendor (ISV) will have an easier time moving, or "porting," applications from x86 processor-based servers to servers that run on IBM's Power chips and to IBM mainframes. By using Chiphopper properly, ISVs can create one version of their Linux applications that runs on different kinds of servers, said Scott Hebbner, IBM's vice president of ISV and developer relations.

To complement the technical offerings, Big Blue is extending its partner program to independent software vendors that sell Linux applications.

IBM will give application providers access to its testing centers and has created a structure so that ISVs can collaborate on specific customer segments, including those considering a move from Windows NT to Linux or from Solaris to Linux. IBM will also support applications that have been ported from the x86 chip to IBM's chips and provide a program certification logo.

Much of the initial interest in Linux as a server operating system was fueled by the availability of relatively cheap hardware based on x86 processors from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices.

IBM, however, has invested in making Linux run on all the hardware systems it sells, including those based on Intel chips, Unix servers, mainframes and its iSeries hardware. Better tools for creating Linux applications on multiple processors will help spur sales of IBM hardware, 40 percent of which is non-Intel servers, according to IBM.

"It's generally part of an effort to fight the perception, held in many quarters, that Linux is nothing more than an x86 phenomenon," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk. "IBM wants to expand (application) vendors' horizons to non-x86 platforms."

Chiphopper includes porting and testing software that helps programmers identify potential incompatibilities. IBM said it is using Linux Standard Base as the standardized version of the Linux operating system.

Red Hat and Novell backed the program because it could grow the number of applications that run on Linux, an important factor for many corporate and consumer customers.

"Making sure that key enterprise applications work seamlessly on leading hardware platforms is a critical component" to adoption of Linux, said Hal Bennett, vice president of Novell Business Development.

IBM signed on 11 ISVs that intend to use the Chiphopper software and program.

The program is one of many efforts IBM has to encourage software providers to build applications that are optimized to run on its Linux servers or its middleware infrastructure software.

Sun Microsystems has created an open-source version of its Solaris operating system in large part to entice programmers to get a better look at its inner workings and create applications for Solaris.

IBM's vice president of Linux, Scott Handy, said the Chiphopper program will greatly increase the number of applications in the Linux industry, or "ecosystem." The company intends to grow its catalog of approved applications from 6,000 today to 12,000 by the end of 2007.

"Sun is promoting an ecosystem that is one 20th the size of the Linux ecosystem," Handy said. "With this announcement, the business decision of which ecosystem is the better business opportunity just got easier, and it heavily favors Linux."