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Biggies move at LinuxWorld; Novell snags Ximian

The fourth annual West Coast installment of IDG's LinuxWorld Conference and Expo takes place this week in San Francisco. More than 150 companies are expected to exhibit a wide range of Linux and open-source technologies at the event, including such heavyweight Linux supporters as Hewlett-Packard, BEA Systems, Sun Microsystems and IBM.

Just as LinuxWorld began, Novell made a move to buttress its Linux story with the purchase of Ximian, a Boston-based maker of Linux desktop and systems administration software. Ximian had acted at times as an important steward of open-source Gnome and Mono efforts.

IBM got something of a jump on the competition with a flurry of pre-conference announcements, including the news that it will introduce the newest edition of its eServer family, the 325, at the event. Powered by AMD's Opteron 240 or 242 models, the 325 is designed to run 32- and 64-bit applications simultaneously, which IBM claims will help businesses continue to capitalize on their 32-bit investments while making the move to 64-bit computing. Expect to see announcements about a new DB2 Linux integrated clustering environment, extended Linux support for the Lotus client and server, and three key Tivoli offerings.

Big Blue also plans to formally announce an integrated platform for e-business, code-named Blue Ice. The platform has been available for the xSeries and zSeries; IBM is expected to announce its availability on an eServer iSeries midrange server and an eServer pSeries Unix-based server, both using IBM's Power4 microprocessor.

However, these moves were overshadowed by Novell's move to buy Ximian, one of the few standalone Linux companies left over from the 1990s. Novell said Linux star and Ximian CTO Miguel de Icaza would now serve as CTO for the new Ximian Services business unit at Novell. In a statement, de Icaza said: "Initiatives like Gnome and Mono will only improve with Novell's resources behind them.

"Novell has already made a strong commitment to open source with its recent decision to put the full range of its network services on Linux and its inclusion of MySQL, Apache and other open-source technologies in NetWare," de Icaza said, adding that Ximian and Novell "are a powerful combination that will help move Gnome and Mono forward."

The acquisition of Ximian was said to be an all-cash transaction. The price Novell paid was not disclosed at the time of the announcement.

The list of keynote speakers at this week's event leaves little doubt about the growing importance of Linux and open source in the enterprise. Executives from HP, Sun, Red Hat, Oracle and Big Blue are scheduled to speak.

The roster of scheduled keynote speakers includes HP EVP Peter Blackmore, of the company's Enterprise Systems Group; Sun's Java man, Jonathan Schwartz; Red Hat CEO Matthew J. Szulik; IBM's GM of E-Business on Demand, Irving Wladawsky-Berger; and EVP of Oracle's Server Technologies Division, Charles Rozwat, among others.

The event schedule includes a State of Open Source Roundtable, which promises to be something of an analyst debate on the state of Linux. Moderated by industry luminary Larry Augustin, now a partner at Azure Capital Partners, the roundtable will include representatives from D.H. Brown, IDC, Forrester Research and Gartner.

Event promoters have also scheduled a West Coast debut of a special "meeting of the minds" on open-source technology in the financial sector at this week's show. The so-called Linux Financial Summit was introduced at the East Coast version of the conference last January. Such industry mavens as Bill Bradway, group VP of Retail Financial Services at Financial Insights (an IDC company), will offer attendees their views on what it will take for Linux to become a viable alternative to Unix in their industry.

And the Golden Penguin Bowl will be back, promising, as conference organizers put it, "to keep the crowd engaged as the Geeks and the Nerds match wits during this special presentation on the expo floor."

Includes additional reporting by Jack Vaughan

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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