IBM began a major push toward Linux in early 2000 and announced a new division to provide Linux software and hardware offerings. IBM created the Integrated UNIX Software Mission and named Irving Wladawsky-Berger to head this group as vice president of technology and strategy.

In essence, IBM is trying to infuse some life into the company's troubled server business by making Linux equal to IBM's proprietary AIX (UNIX) OS as a development platform. IBM already sells Linux on its Netfinity (Intel-based) servers, supports Linux on the RS/6000, and is experimentally running Linux on the S/390. IBM is also evaluating whether to put Linux on its Sequent Computer Systems division's NUMA-Q servers.

IBM is positioning the company as a hardware and software provider of choice in the rapidly growing Internet market sector. Linux is strong in this sector, and IBM hopes that making Linux and AIX interoperable will serve the company well. If Linux continues to grow, the OS will help the company compete with Sun Microsystems for the Internet accounts of dot-com enterprises. If Linux falters, IBM has Monterey (a version of AIX ported to the 64-bit Intel Architecture—IA-64), which can serve the Internet market. IBM envisions that its Linux products will serve the low-end market and that AIX will serve the top-end market. Interoperability between the two OSs means that companies can migrate to AIX as they grow.

Key to IBM's interest in Linux is the belief that IBM can use Linux as a common application platform in heterogeneous networking. IBM is moving its primary applications and other e-business software over to Linux. Among the important e-business applications that IBM will make available on Linux are DB2 Universal Database, WebSphere Application Server, MQSeries, a Java Development Kit (JDK), VisualAge for Java, Tivoli system management tools, and the Lotus Domino messaging server. IBM is making all its server platforms Linux-ready and will contribute additional IBM technologies to the Linux community. IBM hopes to have these Linux applications running on AIX and on Monterey (which will run Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip) by second half 2000.

IBM also hopes to keep Windows from becoming a dominant OS in the Internet market: Linux serves as an alternate choice. With Windows, Microsoft holds the keys to the kingdom, but Linux's territory is still unclaimed. IBM's move to become the dominant supplier of Linux applications and hardware will keep Linux OS software vendors' market share fragmented. At the moment, IBM works with all four major Linux OS vendors (i.e., Red Hat, VA Linux Systems, Caldera Systems, and SuSE) but might create a proprietary Linux distribution, which would provide convenience to IBM in its software efforts. IBM doesn't expect to make money from selling the Linux OS but does hope to make money from applications, middleware, and add-on software.

IBM's push for Linux means that more software and hardware choices will be available to corporations deciding to adopt Linux. In the Windows community, we're likely to see more third-party vendors offer support for Windows server software and Linux interoperability.