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Server sellers bang Linux drum

On the eve of the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, IBM and HP have begun making the case that the comparatively young operating system is worthy of real-world use.

On the eve of the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, IBM and Hewlett-Packard have begun making the case that the comparatively young operating system is worthy of real-world use.

Big Blue will announce that two major customers, Deutsche Telekom and Air New Zealand, are using the Linux operating system on IBM mainframes, while an HP customer, L-3 Communications, is using Linux to run airport baggage scanning systems. The new customers augment others that server makers have trotted out to convince computer buyers that Linux is ready for prime time.

Such "customer win" announcements are a critical phase in the effort of making a new technology a part of the mainstream computing industry. Linux, which began as a hobby, has been gradually accumulating corporate credentials.

With the exception of Microsoft, most of the computing industry's largest companies now actively support Linux. The last sellers of the high-end computers called servers moved into the Linux camp when Sun Microsystems reversed course earlier this year. Chipmakers Advanced Micro Devices and Intel support Linux as well, as do software companies such as Veritas, BEA Systems, Oracle and SAP.

HP inherited a strong position in Linux server sales when it acquired Compaq and its ProLiant line of Intel-based servers. The company is advancing this direction with partnerships with server software companies such as Oracle, Sendmail and BEA Systems as well as new services for installing Linux servers that take over when another system crashes

HP is also pushing Linux in desktop computers, though, supporting it for use on its Evo PCs. "That's targeted largely in the Asian countries and Eastern Europe," said Mike Balma, HP's Linux business strategist.

HP also is working at making printers easier to use in Linux, forming a new working group in the Free Standards Group to try to simplify issues such as installing printer software.

IBM, though, is the loudest Linux backer, including its top-end mainframes in its Linux strategy as a way to find fresh uses for the powerful machines.

Air New Zealand will use an IBM zSeries mainframe and its WebSphere e-commerce software to replace 4,000 systems running Microsoft Exchange e-mail systems, instead using Bynari open-source e-mail software, IBM said. IBM's Global Services division will run the system, an extension of an existing services deal with Air New Zealand.

Linux software seller SuSE revealed last year that Deutsche Telekom is using Linux on its mainframes, but IBM now has more details. The telecommunications company replaced 25 Sun Microsystems Unix servers with a single zSeries mainframe running e-mail, internal Web sites, and e-mail backup service for Deutsche Telekom and its customers.

Other IBM customers include the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is using 66 Linux systems joined into a single cluster to analyze atmospheric chemistry data from NASA's Aura satellite; Westport River Winery for its operations; Wolfermans gourmet bakery's Web site; and 7-Eleven's e-mail operations based on Trustix e-mail software.