IBM Solidifies Linux Strategy

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IBM isn't sitting still while Sun Microsystems enters the Linux space.

IBM is offering $2,500 in unmatched marketing funds to target Linux in SMB accounts and is selling its DB2 database software for the Linux operating system at half-price, said Clint Goodin, Linux SMB/channel software sales manager for IBM Linux Software/Americas, at Avnet/Hall-Mark's annual partner conference here last week.

Thus far, IBM's Linux marketing campaigns have focused more on brand awareness. But in October, the company plans to roll out a Linux "end-to-end" campaign that shifts the focus to selling solutions that include both hardware and software, IBM executives said.

 IBM'S LINUX LOWDOWN: IBM is beefing up its attempts to sell Linux in the SMB space by offering:
>> $2,500 in unmatched marketing funds for targeted accounts.
>> A 50 percent discount on DB2 running on LInux.
>> An integrated solution for the channel that includes hardware and software.


The news resonated with solution providers, who said they've had difficulty getting a consistent message from IBM's hardware and software groups regarding a Linux strategy.

"On the one hand, you hear IBM is getting into Linux, and that's great. But at the street level, it's been hard to get them to cooperate," said Robert Kusche, president and CEO of Sytek Services, a Bellingham, Wash.-based solution provider.

That perception should soon change, IBM's Goodin said.

"Clearly, it's something we're working on. We understand [that Linux in the SMB market is a hardware and software play," he said.

IBM's Linux market-ing campaign, which includes commercials featuring former NBA players, has raised awareness of the open-source platform, said Kusche.

"In the first six months [of 2002, we've done 30 percent more Linux business than we did all of last year," Kusche said.

Distributors such as Tempe, Ariz.-based Avnet Hall-Mark also plan to increase their Linux initiatives, said George Brookler, senior vice president of value-added distribution (VAD) services at Avnet Hall-Mark.

"I can't say [Linux sales are significant now, but they are growing," Brookler said. "With the play from IBM and others, you can't say it's just going to go away."

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