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Red Hat gains backing from tech giants

Red Hat Software, which sells Linux operating systems, receives investments from IBM, Oracle, and Compaq.

Red Hat Software, which sells Linux operating systems along with customer support, said today that it has received investments from several technology bellwethers.

IBM, Compaq Computer, Novell, and Oracle have taken minority equity stakes in Red Hat, the company said. Terms of the investments were not disclosed.

Intel and Netscape Communications already have equity investments in Red Hat. Just last month, IBM said it would begin shipping its Netfinity servers with the Red Hat's Linux operating system.

Linux has been growing in popularity as an operating system, and now with an investment deluge from large technology companies, Red Hat is becoming a clear leader in the Linux commercial market. The other large Linux distributors include Caldera Systems, which has a strong presence among server resellers; SuSE, a company that is strong in Europe; and Pacific Hi-Tech, which dominates in Japan and China.

Although Linux can obtained for free or for relatively low cost, proponents consider the operating system a good choice for other reasons, such as its reliability and the fact that it can be customized. Programmers are free to modify the Linux "source code"--the underlying blueprints of the operating system--to tailor Linux for specific tasks.