IBM Backs Standard SUSE Linux For Point-Of-Sale Solution

The Turnkey solution based on standard SUSE will replace custom Red Hat OS used previously.
IBM is backing SUSE Linux for its future point-of-sale retail deals.

At the National Retail Federation Show in New York next week, IBM will be touting a new solution, IBM Retail Environment for SUSE Linux, which will be available during the first half of 2004, an IBM spokesman said.

The new solution combines SUSE's Enterprise Linux distribution with IBM SurePOS, IBM eServer and IBM middleware to provide a full turnkey solution for retailers and their partners, IBM said.

The product features simplified installation and configuration, including four optimized Linux OS images for POS terminals, as well as centralized management, a spokesman said.

The cost varies depending on the implementation, IBM said.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based computer giant had been using and supporting Red Hat's Linux for a limited number of Linux-based retail customers, including Regal Cinemas, and will continue to support existing customers. Going forward, however, IBM will back SUSE Linux exclusively for new Linux retail customers and applications, the spokesman said.

While IBM maintains that it is vendor-neutral, observers note a warming relationship between IBM and SUSE, whose acquisition by Novell is expected by the end of this month. IBM kicked in $50 million to make that deal happen.

IBM's current retail Linux partner, Red Hat, delivers custom Linux retail solutions through its engineering department but will not offer a standard retail offering, said a Red Hat spokeswoman.

Red Hat, Raleigh, N.C., attributes its hesitancy to provide a standard retail offering to the diversification of solutions it would need to provide to meet the variety of custom POS installations, the vendor said.

The retail landscape is scattered with numerous operating systems ranging from DOS to IBM's custom 4690 OS for retail and Microsoft's Windows Embedded family of products.

The availability of a standard Linux distribution for the POS market is a leap forward since customers can run and support the same Linux distribution on their PCs, servers, POS terminals and handheld devices, one SUSE executive claimed.

SUSE added to the code requirements necessary for the retail environment, but the Linux distribution is not different from the base Linux OS.

"We don't have a special version for retail," said Juergen Geck, CTO of SUSE Linux in Nuremberg, Germany, noting that the consistency of code will make it easier for IBM and its customers to provide support. "Under this deal, what we provide to IBM is not another operating system."

One IBM Business Partner and ISV that offers a Gift Registry solution for retailers said having a standard Linux retail offering is a good move for IBM.

"It's good news for us because we've been a supporter of IBM, and we have our software running under Windows but also Linux," said David Pava, vice president of sales at MarCole Enterprises, Walnut Creek, Calif. "We're seeing increased interest in Linux due to the total cost of ownership benefits."

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