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IBM Launches Open Client For Cross-Platform Desktops, Plus Linux Servers for SMBs

Building a Better Desktop

  • February 15, 2007
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

IBM plans a big drive among outside application developers to write desktop and mobile applications for Open Client Solution, a new Eclipse-based crossplatform software product rolled out at this week's LinuxWorld OpenSolutions show. Two other Linux-oriented announcements from IBM--the p5 560Q midrange server and a new Informix-based data server--are geared to small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), with intended benefits that revolve respectively around faster data center virtualization and more powerful database administration.

In a press conference at the show in New York, Scott Handy, IBM's VP for Worldwide Linux and Open Source, said that Open Client Solution will run as a client to Lotus Notes and Sametime, providing the same look-and-feel across Windows, Linux, Apple Macintosh, and mobile systems.

On the Linux side, applications for Open Client will appear the same on both KDE and Gnome desktops, maintained Adam Jollans, IBM's Linux strategy manager, in a follow-up meeting with LinuxPlanet afterward. "That's because Open Client runs at a higher [user interface] level," according to Jollans.

IBM is gearing the crossplatform desktop software both to new implementations of Notes/Sametime and to existing deployments, in which customers might want to run Linux on the desktops of developers, call center workers, or other employees, while retaining Windows desktops elsewhere in the company, for example.

Handy told reporters that IBM first deployed Open Client Solution internally on Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation, using Eclipse with Rich Client Platform technology as its development platform.

In pursuit of new crossplatform desktop applications, IBM will strive to drum up interest among outside developers through venues such as DeveloperWorks conferences, according to Jollans.

Aside from Lotus Notes, Domino, and the Sametime instant messaging and collaboration environment, other tools already supporting the forthcoming desktop client include OASIS Open Document Format, Firefox, and IBM WebSphere Portal 6 on both Red Hat Desktop Linux suite and Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. Notes will gain first-time Mac support in Notes 8, a product slated for release later this year.

IBM's newly announced System p5 560Q, on the other hand, is designed to let customers run existing AIX applications--in conjunction with Linux applications operating on virtual machines --on a single server inside the data center

Optional features include IBM's Advanced Power Virtualization, for operating multiple partitions per processor, along with Integrated Stack for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (ISSLE)--a software bundle, also launched this week, consisting of SLED together with a mix of open and private source software from IBM and Centeris.

As Jollans sees it, the 560Q is ideally suited to SMBs who want to start running Linux applications in virtualized environments immediately, without waiting for chip makers Intel and AMD to wrap up all of their hardware virtualization plans.

The 560Q announcement follows IBM's rollout last week of a similar bundle for System i customers. According to Jollans, SMBs owning System i machines are likely to use partitioning for running Linux-based Web applications alongside legacy AS/400 software.

Although opinions were mixed, customers and analysts attending the show were largely upbeat about IBM's wide ranging Linux and open source announcements.

Unlike PC servers, larger Unix servers and mainframes already provide virtualization in their processors and firmware, noted Tony Iams, VP and senior analyst, System Software Research, at Ideas International.

The IBM p Server can provide much better performance than software virtualization environments such as VMWare or Xen, according to Iams. "Users can run LAMP-type workloads [on p Server partitions], so the burden of compiling isn't as high," he told LinuxPlanet.

In another interview, Jason F. Woytek, managing partner and senior developer at PC Rescue, said he might be interested in testing both Open Client Solution and the 560Q for possible use among his company's health care provider customer base. Customers of the Texas-based systems integrator and data center consulting firm typically use either Windows, Linux, other flavors of Unix, or some combination of those three environments.

Because many doctors have learned to use Microsoft Outlook in college and medical school, many health care providers have adopted Microsoft Exchange as their messaging and collaboration platform, according to Woytek. "But we do come across implementations of Lotus Notes, too," he added.

Steve Garone, principal analyst at Harvard Research Group, predicted that the new Open Client Solution will generate considerable interest among ISVs who want to create applications that will run consistently across Windows, Linux, and Mac desktops.

"There's a lot of Notes still out there in the installed base," Garone told LinuxPlanet.

In another announcement at this week's show in New York City, IBM is teaming with Novell and AMD on a Linux-based bundled data server offering for retail stores and other SMBs.

The bundle combines IBM's next generation Informix Dynamic Server (IDS) with Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and IBM xSeries 3105 servers based on AMD Opeteron 1000 Series processors.

Handy said that IBM and its partners are testing the bundle with customers that include eight of the top ten retailers in North America and 20 of the top 25 supermarkets, all of which already use IDS.

Planned enhancements in Cheetah cover areas ranging from applications collaboration to integration with Service Oriented Architecture, support for unstructured documents, built-in flexible text searches, better support for hierarchical data structures, and faster ports of existing database applications to Informix.

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