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IBM, Red Hat widen Linux mainframe promotion

Integrated Facility for Linux lets customers run the open-source operating system on an IBM mainframe.

IBM and Red Hat are broadening a partnership to promote Linux on Big Blue's mainframe computers.

The two companies said this week they're packaging Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 with IBM's Integrated Facility for Linux, a feature Big Blue sells to let customers run the open-source operating system within a mainframe partition.

Customers didn't want to have to order the technology as two separate items, said Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide Linux at IBM. In addition, "they can expect attractive pricing for this offer," he said--though customers will have to contact IBM or a partner if they want to find out how much of a discount they'll get.

On a mainframe, Linux is relatively expensive. An annual Red Hat subscription costs $18,000 for round-the-clock support.

Most Linux is used today on servers using x86 processors such as Intel's Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron. However, Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Graphics are working to popularize the operating system on systems with Intel Itanium processors, and IBM likewise promotes Linux on mainframes and its two Power processor-based server lines.

Linux and mainframes are a curious combination of new and old technology, but IBM has a strong financial incentive to merge the two.

"Linux has had a significant impact in rejuvenating sales in the zSeries (mainframe-server) line overall," Handy said. More than 10 percent of IBM's mainframe revenue is from Linux on the high-end servers, he added.

IBM and Red Hat also will jointly market their products, Handy said.

One key hurdle for reaching new domains is software support. There now are 700 applications available for Linux on the mainframe, Handy said. IBM has a program called Chiphopper to help companies move their programs to mainframes or Power servers. So far, software companies have released 100 applications with the Chiphopper program, he said.