IBM bundles middleware on Linux systems

IBM will try to break Microsoft's stranglehold on the business desktop market by preloading Notes software in Linux distributions.

IBM on Tuesday said it wants to free desktops from Microsoft software, announcing an alliance with Linux vendors to preload its middleware on Linux distributions.

IBM said it has reconfigured its Lotus Foundations software -- which includes Lotus Notes, Sametime and Symphony -- to preload on Linux distributions like Red Hat, Ubuntu and Novell's Suse Linux. The repackaging makes the middleware easier and cheaper to install on Linux PCs, IBM said.

The easy availability of collaboration tools could trigger businesses to switch to Linux, considering Windows Vista adoption has been stagnant, IBM executives said in a press conference at the Linuxworld conference in San Francisco.

Citing Linux as a low-cost operating system compared to Windows, IBM hopes that preloading the tools on Linux could also help break Microsoft's stranglehold on the SMB market with its Small Business Server software.

"There hasn't been a choice for the ... space besides the Microsoft SBS offering," said Jeff Smith, vice president of open source and Linux middleware, during the press conference. IBM hopes its implementation could bring its Domino server products to more SMB infrastructures.

Deployment of the software, which is partly open-sourced and private-sourced, is as easy as a few clicks, especially for small and medium-size businesses that don't have the IT infrastructure of large organizations, IBM's Smith said.

It also saves organizations time and money, said Lou Esposito, president and chief information officer of Stradasoft, which distributes IBM middleware. Making the middleware easy to deploy by preloading it in appliances or virtual environments has brought down install times from days to hours, Esposito said. It also freed up Stradasoft's resources, allowing engineers to focus on other projects.

"Now it's all put together, plug it in -- that's what it's all about," Esposito said.

IBM also said it is working with hardware distributors to preload the software on Linux-based appliances, IBM's Smith said. The company will announce hardware partners later this year.

The middleware will also be pre-bundled with Suse Linux Enterprise Server 10 and Ubuntu Linux. Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, will make the middleware components, like Notes, separately available as downloads, said Malcolm Yates, partner manager at Canonical. The Linux distributions are not limited to desktops -- they could also work on laptops, Yates said.

IBM will also ship the repackaged middleware for Apple's Macintosh OS later this year, Smith said.

The company on Tuesday also announced a software toolkit to write applications specifically for Lotus Foundations deployed on the appliances, Smith said.

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