High-Tech Dream Team Sponsors Linux Lab

A dream team of high-tech heavyweights — led by IBM, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Intel — is joining forces to find new ways for the Linux operating system to be used in high-powered corporate networks and on the Internet.

The companies announced the formation of the Open Source Development Lab Wednesday, and said it will be open for business before the end of the year. The lab will be based outside Portland, Oregon and receive several million dollars (US$) in annual funding.

Open-Source Hurdle

While scores of personal computer software titles are available for the Linux operating system, the lab is designed to accelerate development of Linux products for enterprise servers, the powerful multi-processor computers that run corporate networks and are the backbone of the Internet.

Linux was created in 1991 by Finnish graduate student Linus Torvalds, using the open-source development model. That model allows developers access to the inner workings of the operating system and has created a sprawling community of developers — many of whom are volunteers.

“Today, Linux developers do much of their work behind corporate firewalls,” said Michael Tiemann, chief technical officer at Red Hat, a distributor of Linux software. “This will enable us to participate on projects that require access to shared hardware resources.”

New Medium

Ross Mauri, an IBM vice president, said in addition to the opportunity to work on some of the world’s most powerful computers, the lab will give developers who are currently spread out around the world a central focal point for their research.

“Linux development activity is steadily growing,” Mauri said. “This lab will put additional resources into developers’ hands and accelerate that growth even more.”

No New Projects

The companies said that at least initially, the lab will not create new projects but work to push existing development ideas further along. An independent lab director will be chosen and will work with the open-source community to choose the first projects to be tackled.

“The Open Source Development Lab will help fulfill a need that individual Linux developers often have — access to high-end enterprise hardware,” said Brian Behlendorf, chief technical officer of CollabNet and co-founder of software firm Apache.

Challenge to Sun?

Linux has become a major competitor to Microsoft’s Windows for personal computers and for Windows NT for networks, as a host of computer makers now offer customers a choice of operating systems.

However, some analysts see the lab as a move on Sun Microsystems and its dominance of the market for Web servers, which route traffic on the Internet.

Additional contributors and sponsors of the open-source lab include Caldera, Dell, Linuxcare, LynuxWorks, TurboLinux and VA Linux.

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