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IBM signs Linux server "utility" deal

IBM has named its first major customer of a utility-like service that lets customers rent access to Linux servers that IBM itself manages. Exxon Mobil's Mobil Travel Guide will use the service in a five-year, multimillion-dollar deal to run a new Internet service called "Mobil Companion" that offers customized information for auto travelers, Big Blue plans to announce Friday.

The travel guide will use the service to meet seasonal peak demands, IBM said. The Linux Virtual Services offering from IBM lets customers pay for the computing capacity they use instead of purchasing computing power to accommodate peak demands. The services run on an IBM mainframe.