IBM Pushes Linux Switch

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IBM is readying a program to push its enterprise software running on Linux as an alternative to Microsoft software running on that company's soon-to-be discontinued Windows NT operating system.

The program, announced ahead of this week's LinuxWorld show in New York, offers business partners free migration classes, and some discounts on software and services for users moving to IBM software running on Linux.

Microsoft is discontinuing support and security patches for Windows NT at the end of this year, requiring nearly two million customers to develop a migration strategy, IBM says.

Classes and Costs

Big Blue's classes will be offered worldwide, and will cover migration to IBM hardware and software for needs such as database management, collaboration, security, systems and network management, Web and application serving, and file and print serving.

The Armonk, New York, company is also offering discounts on Lotus Domino running on Linux for any IBM eServer, including its zSeries mainframe, to customers moving from Windows programs like Microsoft Exchange.

Special programs are also being offered for migration from Microsoft SQL Server to DB2 Universal Database on Linux and for security and network management migrations.

Microsoft first announced that it was retiring Windows NT in September 2001, in an effort to get users to adopt its Windows 2000 family of products. Support and security fixes are due to be discontinued on January 1, 2005, and online support will cease December 31, 2004, according to the company's Web site.

Perfect Timing?

IBM's timing is good, says James Governor, principal analyst with RedMonk in London.

"Users are definitely looking at Linux to reduce their total cost of ownership around Windows and at the same time IBM is savvy to the fact that it can make extra money on pieces of software and services," Governor says.

Linux has proven itself stable and less expensive than Windows on the server side, and there is already great momentum for customers to move to the platform, he adds.

"Linux is not hard to sell at the moment, and IBM has done a great job at associating itself with Linux," Governor says.

However, Jean van Laarhoven, systems manager for part of Amsterdam's city government and a Windows NT user, says that despite Linux's purported benefits, he's sticking with Microsoft.

"I don't trust the evolvement of Linux. It depends too much on hobbyism," Van Laarhoven says. Besides, no one in his three-person department knows about Unix or Linux systems.

"We would have to go back to school," Van Laarhoven says. Even though IBM is offering classes to help users migrate, for the time being Van Laarhoven isn't interested.

While Van Laarhoven is reluctant to migrate to Linux, IBM will likely get some takers, according to Governor.

"Linux on the server has really proved itself and most ISVs [independent software vendors] are supporting Linux," he says. "This is going to be a very challenging year for Microsoft," he adds.

Microsoft representatives in the U.K. weren't immediately available to comment on IBM's migration offer Tuesday.

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