WebSphere already runs on Linux on Intel-based hardware, including IBM's xSeries of small servers. Now IBM is moving the combination to its more powerful pSeries, which primarily run its AIX version of Unix. The p Series comes in multiprocessor versions up to eight-way servers, built around IBM's Power4 microprocessors. Linux and WebSphere on the pSeries "goes beyond what an Intel server can do," says Scott Handy, IBM's director of Linux software solutions, and allows the Linux-WebSphere combination to work on a clustered set of Web servers or in application server farms.
The goal is to put out a low-cost software package that might supplant a competitor's application server running under Unix, such as Sun Microsystems' Sparc architecture. The target is IBM's top competitor in the application server market, BEA Systems Inc., whose customers frequently run its WebLogic application server on Sun hardware. "This particular configuration is priced a lot less than a WebLogic application server running on Sun," Handy says.
"I don't think it's going to drive any big stampedes," says Dwight Davis, an analyst with Summit Strategies. But he notes that IBM is not only creating a more powerful combination for existing Linux users; the company is also sending a message that IBM isn't worried about the $1 billion in damages sought by the SCO Group from IBM for alleged copyright infringement by open-source developers of Linux. SCO holds the copyright to Unix and claims parts of Unix were duplicated in Linux. "Their announcement suggests IBM isn't overly concerned about that. It's moving forward with Linux, not slowing down," Davis says. In addition to offering the Linux-WebSphere combination on the pSeries, IBM is also making it available on the iSeries, the former AS/400 server for small business. Like the pSeries, the iSeries is powered by IBM's Power4 microprocessor.
Only the application server part of WebSphere was included in the announcement. Other elements of WebSphere middleware, such as WebSphere Portal and WebSphere MQ, are not yet available to run on the servers under Linux.
Gartner reported in May that IBM moved ahead of BEA Systems in the application server market last year. Its share rose from 31% to 37% of the market, while BEA slipped from 34% to 29%.