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Unisys gives Linux a second try

The longtime Microsoft partner will offer open-source software on its multiprocessor servers.

Longtime Microsoft partner Unisys has begun offering Linux from Red Hat and Novell on its multiprocessor servers, a change of heart that reflects a new seriousness about the open-source operating system.

Unisys already offered Linux in 2003 on its ES7000 servers, but tellingly it decided against using the two commercially popular versions in favor of the product from the SCO Group. Unisys announced the new Linux support in conjunction with the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo this week in San Francisco.

In 2003, the Blue Bell, Pa.-based company said it grudgingly added Linux because some customers had a purchasing requirement to support the open-source operating system. "Obviously, our focus really remains the Microsoft environment. That's where we're really putting our major investments," Jon Burns, a director at Unisys, said that year.

Now, Unisys has a more enthusiastic attitude. "Unisys is positioned to be an enterprise Linux market leader," Chief Operating Officer Joe McGrath said in a statement Sunday. The company said it has an advantage because its servers can run multiple operating systems simultaneously and change the size of a Linux partition without shutting it down.

Unisys' earlier support for SCO's Linux came shortly after SCO sued IBM for allegedly moving Unix technology to Linux and shortly before SCO canceled that product.

Unisys has been a tight Microsoft partner in promoting its 32-processor ES7000 servers. The company positions Linux not as an alternative to Windows but rather to Unix running on proprietary chips from Sun Microsystems, IBM, Silicon Graphics and Hewlett-Packard.

Unisys debuted its Intel processor-based ES7000 line in 2000 but hasn't achieved widespread success. Hewlett-Packard, Compaq Computer and Dell all signed up to sell the systems, but canceled the deals.