IBM sees 30 percent hike in apps available for Linux

Calling it a "major milestone" for Linux, IBM on Wednesday reported that the number of enterprise-level applications available for the open-source operating system has grown 30 percent since the start of the year.

The growth is indicative of the growing acceptance towards business applications running on Linux, said Scott Handy, director of Linux solutions and marketing at IBM's software group. The number of Linux-based business applications available from independent software vendors stands at 2,288 as listed in IBM's Global Services directory, up from 1,700 at the start of the year, IBM officials said.

"Everybody knows Linux has been popular for Web servers. Now we are seeing rising demand for (Linux-based) business applications and a tremendous growth in ISVs (independent software vendors) supplying software," said Handy.

IBM offers three main products that are available for Linux: WebSphere, its application server; DB2, its database; and Lotus Domino, a groupware application server developed by its subsidiary Lotus Development Corp. To show how its partners are also backing Linux, Big Blue noted that SAP AG uses DB2 to power installations running on Linux, and SAS Institute Inc. uses WebSphere to run its electronic-CRM applications running on Linux.

"Linux provides good performance, is reliable, and is cost-effective," said Handy. All three characteristics combine to allow a user to license the operating system with minimal hardware infrastructure, he said.

The open-source nature of Linux, in which users can freely share and modify its underlying code, doesn't stop it from providing a viable platform on which ISVs (independent software vendors) can build commercial products, Handy said. "Commercially licensed software on top of open-source software is a viable business model," he said.

"You wouldn't be seeing the Linux server (market) share increase if a business model wasn't there," said Chris Le Tocq, principal analyst at Guernsey Research in Los Altos, California. "Linux is viable, and the bottom line has IBM writing applications for it," he said.

Microsoft Corp. executives have spoken out in recent months against the open source model, saying it undercuts the incentive for companies to invest in developing commercial software. Microsoft has realized the market share of Linux is on the rise which is one reason why they are constantly attacking the open source model, Le Tocq said. "By being outspoken against (the) open source (movement), Microsoft (is) doing all they can to slow it down," he said.

The promise of Linux won't reduce the incentive for Microsoft's partners to develop business applications for .Net, the company's Web services framework, the analyst said. Likewise, IBM will have its own partners writing Web services applications for Linux, Le Tocq said, adding that some partners may dabble in both platforms.

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