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IBM pumps up support for Linux app developers

Seeing a steady increase in the development of server-based Linux applications, IBM is making yet another investment in the open-source operating system, announcing plans yesterday to significantly expand its Solution Partnership Centers (SPC) where developers can customise and test their applications.

Over the next few months, according to IBM officials, the company will increase the number of its SPCs from two to 14, to be spread over five different continents. These centres will offer developers free technical support as they port, test, and market their applications on all IBM platforms, particularly the company's PC-based Netfinity line of servers.

"What this [announcement] is about is making it easier for Linux applications to be available," said Tom Figgatt, Linux Global executive at IBM's Netfinity Servers, in New York. "This is all part of paving the roadway."

Until recently many IBM users have seen Linux as mostly suited for departmental computing chores such as filing, printing, and perhaps some Web serving. But increasingly, users have been more interested in using the open-source platform for hosting weightier applications.

"Through these centres we are trying to encourage the development community to help propagate a growing array of high-quality apps that can run on Linux. It is applications that sell our boxes, and it is applications that are the core requirement for success and acceptance by customers," Figgatt said.

The technical focus of the centres will be almost exclusively on servers and not desktops. IBM has seen little interest emerge among users for desktop productivity applications for Linux and expects it to be that way for the foreseeable future.

"In a few isolated cases we are seeing big demand in a company for Linux-based desktops. But for the most part we are not seeing demand for general-purpose, knowledge-worker user installations," Figgatt said.

Developers can find out more information about IBM's process for testing and certifying Linux applications on Netfinity servers by going to http://www.developer.ibm.com.