IBM 'Chiphopper' Ensures ISVs' Linux Apps Run On All eServers


The program, officially known as the eServer Application Server Advantage for Linux and which will be announced in conjunction with leading Linux distributors Red Hat and Novell, will enable ISVs to develop one version of their application and certify it to run on IBM's entire eServer line running Linux. The servers included in the program range from IBM's entry-level x86-based xSeries, to blades and clusters, IBM Power processor-based servers and mainframes, according to IBM, Armonk, N.Y.

Getting ISVs to port their Intel-based Linux applications -- as well as Windows and Unix applications -- to IBM's entire eServer platform has not been an easy sell. IBM hopes Chiphopper not only will make the porting and migration process easier but, more importantly, will give ISVs and their customers assurances that the applications will run as seamlessly across Linux servers as advertised.

"Everybody is spending their time in the porting and support process around migrating their [Linux] application from one operating system to another," said Wesley Thompson, director of partner delivery for Information Builders, an ISV in Atlanta. "It's for thousands of applications on the x86 chipset to help them migrate up the stack to run on enterprise-level systems. It's opened our eyes to the seriousness IBM is putting on its ecosystem to spur ISVs to do ports. The rising blue tide floats all boats."

Chiphopper--formerly code-named "Blue Rock Hopper"--is not a renegade API set or an effort to co-opt the Free Standards Group's Linux Standards Base (LSB), the widely endorsed standard for application development on Linux, IBM executives said. Rather, it is a reference implementation of the LSB that tests C and C++ code specifically for IBM systems.

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One of the tools of the program, for instance, is an "LSBappchk" tool that checks the source code and binary code for LSB compliance, according to IBM. Customers also can use LSB 2.0 to do porting and migrations.

In addition, Chiphopper includes free porting and testing software dubbed "Hopscotch" that examines code for possible portability problems, alerts developers to potential issues and provides guidance for fixes. The program also offers at no charge to ISVs porting and testing software, access to testing centers, post-sales support, financial support for co-marketing, and sales and marketing resources.

Although Red Hat and Novell supply Linux distributions that span IBM's multiple processor architectures, ISVs have to worry about other plumbing issues to ensure compatibility of their individual Linux applications on each IBM platform. Chiphopper can help solve some of these problems, according to ISVs.

For instance, Information Builders used Chiphopper to deploy WebFocus applications for WebSphere and DB2 for Linux on IBM eServer OpenPower, pSeries and JS20 blades.

Peregrine Systems, San Diego, is another ISV and charter member of the Chiphopper program that migrated its Linux ServiceCenter 6.1 application on Intel to IBM's Power Unix.

"There are concerns [among ISVs] about platform portability. As you move your software application from one platform to another, it has the potential to introduce issues," said Darren Maglidt, area vice president of product enablement, Peregrine Systems.

He noted that ISVs want to avoid the same application incompatibility problems that plagued the Unix world.

"[Linux] distributions offer support at the lowest tier, but when you move applications, you need confidence that there won't be platform-specific issues, like the historic issue of Solaris," Maglidt said. "It was not a given that Solaris would run on SPARC and Intel because of availability of third-party libraries."

Chiphopper provides multiple benefits for ISVs and systems integrators to migrate their Intel-based Linux applications to IBM platforms, including a "Ready for eServer with Linux" trademark they can apply to their application to prove it is Chiphopper-validated, IBM said.

As part of the program announcement on Tuesday, IBM will also announce availability of three new PartnerWorld Web communities to help ISVs migrate their applications from other platforms to Linux, including Sun Solaris to Linux, Windows to Linux and one specifically for IBM's Chiphopper.

IBM will also offer financial assistance with co-marketing support for all of these ISVs, and access to additional sales coverage through IBM. The company also plans to offer no-charge support to any ISV whose Chiphopper-validated application has a problem running on IBM servers at a customer site.

Another ISV, Avokia, used Chiphopper for porting and testing its apLive application, which expands the benefits of clustering to databases, to create clusters of zSeries, iSeries, pSeries and xSeries servers.

Frankie Wong, CTO of Avokia, Toronto, said the Chiphopper program will enable ISVs that have built Linux applications for the Intel environment to migrate and port them to IBM's entire Linux platform.

"It's a chance for ISVs to have their apps tested, validated and get the seal of approval," Wong said. "Applications that are written to specific platforms have a more difficult porting process. We don't do anything substantial [for] recompiling or porting for Suse vs. Red Hat, but there are some differences we have to do to recompile from one [Linux] to another. But there's much more work involved to bring applications from one Unix to another."

Wong said Chiphopper also will reduce the part of the heavy lifting required to port and migrate Windows and Solaris applications to IBM's Linux platforms. For example, a Windows ISV can participate in the IBM PartnerWorld Industry Networks Program to help them migrate their applications to Linux, and then have the applications "Chiphopped" to ready them for all IBM platforms, he said.

Chiphopper supports LSB and LSB applications that use open extensions, including openLDAP, Open SSL, Kerberos, PHP, Perl and Python, according to IBM.