IBM looks to SMB sector for Linux love

By Matt Berger, IDG News Service |  Operating Systems

Ahead of the Linuxworld Conference and Expo, which begins Tuesday in San Francisco, IBM Corp. is seeding the field with a collection of announcements that illustrate its momentum behind the open-source operating system. The company detailed Thursday new customers that have chosen to use Linux with its hardware and software. Nine customers being highlighted bring IBM's tally of Linux followers to more than 4,600, the company said.

What is notable about the latest batch of converts is that some come from the small and medium-sized business (SMB) sector, a segment known for typically using Windows servers to run basic business, productivity and accounting applications.

Despite popular belief, "Linux is being used quite heavily by small and medium-sized business," said Scott Handy, director of Linux software solutions for IBM. "We've been partnering with independent software vendors (ISVs) who call on the SMB market."

Through partnerships with ISVs, IBM has been able to convince customers that its Linux-based xSeries servers, along with supporting applications such as its DB2 database software, can make for a viable alternative to Windows. One IBM software partner, Accpac International Inc., a subsidiary of Computer Associates International Inc., makes its accounting software available for Linux, and led to IBM winning a customer relationship with Westport Rivers Winery, a small wine maker based in Westport, Massachusetts.

"Our initial search was for an accounting package that ran off of Linux," said Jamey Russell, IT manager and proprietor of family-owned Westport River Winery.

After some investigating, the company decided to go with Accpac's accounting software with DB2 on a server running Red Hat Inc.'s Linux operating system. Additionally, Westport River Winery migrated its Windows 2000 servers used for print and file serving and Web access to a Linux server, and has switched to Domino, the messaging software from IBM subsidiary Lotus Development Corp.

Russell calculated that the company will save about 3 percent to 5 percent on its IT budget over the next three years moving to its Linux configuration. "After that, our savings per year will be approximately 60 percent each year," Russell said.

"Our goal is, within the next year and a half, to become a Microsoft-free office," he said.

Westport River Winery said it plans to continue its migration to Linux in the next few months, when it plans to replace its Microsoft Office software with the open-source alternative OpenOffice. The switch has been seen as a positive one for Russell, who said he has toyed around with Linux since 1995. And he said it has been equally as smooth for the 20 Westport River Winery employees who access the system.

"Right now we're really using Linux on the back end, which most people don't see," Russell said. "It's been very transparent for most people."

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