IBM And Sun Duke It Out Over Linux - InformationWeek

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IBM And Sun Duke It Out Over Linux

IBM and Sun unveiled new versions of their Unix operating systems this week. Just like the children's game Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, the two computing behemoths seem locked in a battle, trying to knock each other's block off. The latest fight is in the management-capability arena.

The vendors' upgrades should help customers enough that Unix could remain a viable operating system throughout the decade. IBM has unveiled AIX 5L and Sun has unveiled the fourth update to its Solaris 8 Operating Environment. Currently, Sun leads IBM in the Unix server market.

AIX 5L was built for Linux. IBM is hedging its bets on the freeware operating system that allows simple application portability by building tight integration between the two operating systems. Two features are aimed at drawing Linux apps and customers to the AIX platform. First, IBM is adding APIs and headers so customers can recompile Linux apps and run them on the E server pSeries servers. Second, IBM is making the AIX Toolbox for Linux Applications available to customers. The Toolbox holds more than 200 open-source tools and apps that are designed to help customers build Linux apps that run on the pSeries. AIX 5L is available now for free to existing customers and comes with the cost of the pSeries server for new customers.

In addition to the Linux support, AIX 5L is built to provide easier system administration. Thanks to new APIs in AIX5L, customers will be able to control and modify the pSeries system from third-party apps. Administrators won't have to manage as much of the complex systems via internal controls.

IBM also unveiled two new midrange pSeries servers, the six-way p620 and the rack-mountable p660. Both servers come with IBM's Silicon--On--Insulator internal-bus technology that reduces resistance between processors, increasing performance. Both systems are available now. The p620 is priced at $16,990 for a one-way configuration, and a comparable p660 sells for $20,995.

"Customers currently running Linux apps might have concerns about management and scalability. So now their Linux app can run with the AIX back end," says Mike Kerr, IBM's VP of marketing for the pSeries.

Sun is betting that customers can do all their computing using Solaris. Solaris 8 OE customers will be able to implement and reconfigure systems using Web Start Flash. This provisioning software reportedly lets administrators set up a Web server in a tenth of the normal time that it used to take, for example. A second new feature, IP Multipathing, makes sure users have continuous access to data when a network connection breaks down. Third, Sun is adding mobile IP enhancements that are supposed to guarantee secure access to data from wireless appliances. These and other enhancements are available for free, with the rest of the operating system, when downloaded over the Internet for a Sun server with eight processors or fewer.

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