Unisys is to support Linux on its ES7000 series high-end servers.
It already offered Linux on two-way or four-way servers based on Intel microprocessors, and is now adding support for Linux on a range of multiprocessor machines containing up to 32 Intel 32-bit or 64-bit processors.
Unisys will offer two distributions of Linux on its ES7000 servers: SuSE, from Novell, and Red Hat from Red Hat.
SuSE Linux will run on up to 32 processors, Red Hat Linux on up to 16, according to Steve Rawsthorn, Unisys vice-president of sales and marketing for systems and technology in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
For support and service,Unisys will provide the main point of contact with customers and handle first-line support, Rawsthorn said.
He pointed out that Unisys is not turning its back on Microsoft, supplier of the Windows operating systems that previously shipped on all ES7000 models.
"We see this as an incremental revenue opportunity for us with Linux. We don't see it detracting from what we do with Microsoft," Rawsthorn said.
The company had been prevented from bidding for some contracts because it did not support Linux, he added.
Unisys is planning to expand its ES7000 range in the near future, and future models will be compatible with Microsoft's operating systems, Rawsthorn said.
Some organisations are already running Linux on ES7000 machines. These early adopters had "very little" help from Unisys in doing so, Rawsthorn said.
One area where Linux may steal a march on Microsoft's operating system is in its support for dynamic partitioning.
If, for example, an ES7000 machine is running one application in an instance of Linux across 16 processors, and another application in a different instance across another block of 16 processors, dynamic partitioning allows processors to be taken away from one application and given to another as the workload changes, while the application continues to run.
ES7000 hardware has been ready for dynamic partitioning for years, but so far no operating system has been able to make use of it, according to Andy Carter, Unisys server product manager for Emea. "You won't have that in Windows until Longhorn comes along," he said.
Support for dynamic partitioning in Linux requires version 2.6 of the kernel, which SuSE and Red Hat have not yet incorporated into their versions of Linux intended for enterprise users.
Rawsthorn expects SuSE to move first, releasing an enterprise version with the 2.6 kernel in the next day or two, although a SuSE spokesperson refused to comment on when such an announcement might be made.
Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service