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Linux, aisle nine

A joint announcement from Big Blue and Integrated Distribution Solutions LLC on face value means IBM has further immersed itself in the supply chain market, but it also carries a Linux angle that bodes well for open source.

IBM and Integrated Distribution Solutions LLC (IDS) are developing a new Linux-based tool set for the food and consumer goods industry, proving Big Blue's support of Linux in the enterprise and how open source has slowly and steadily permeated another market.

The partnership between IBM and IDS, an Omaha, Neb.-based provider of software applications for the food and consumer goods distribution industries, builds on a base of 800 joint customers who already run software from IDS on IBM eServer systems.

The tool set is the IDS Power Enterprise and will consist of a series of software modules designed exclusively for those companies in the food and consumer goods distribution industry. The modules consist of customer relationship management, supplier relationship management, operations and warehouse automation, financial accounting and business intelligence components.

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By moving the focus toward Linux-based systems, both IDS and IBM are hoping the flexibility and savings associated with the open source operating system will deliver a better edge over competitors in the service industry.

Under the terms of the agreement, IBM will assist IDS in marketing the IDS Power Enterprise applications and provide technical support. In addition, IDS said it will continue to promote the IBM eServer systems and IBM middleware on Linux, including IBM WebSphere and IBM DB2 Universal Database, as the platform of choice for IDS customers.

IDS will also configure the Power Enterprise suite on IBM's eServer iSeries, xSeries and pSeries hardware platforms running the Linux operating system. This new product suite is available today.

"What is kind of interesting here is that in last year IBM had been systematically moving into new [vertical] markets with some hardware and middleware and Linux as well," said Charles King, the principal analyst of Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Research.

King said the new suite would be aimed at keeping existing IDS/IBM customers within the folds, as well as enticing other customers to adopt a Linux-based platform.

"They basically work with a [retailer] and say, 'if you're on Windows NT, we have a very legitimate path from Windows to Linux and can maintain that platform,'" King said.

King explained that existing HP or Sun customers can also be enticed to migrate over to an IBM Power platform or iSeries, and that Linux in that space gives many opportunities for both SMBs and enterprise alike.

The Power Enterprise collaboration is also an example of IBM's work with independent software vendors through the PartnerWorld for Developers program, said Buell Duncan, IBM general manager for independent software vendor and developer relations.

PartnerWorld aims to provide developers with access to new customers and revenue opportunities through IBM's marketing, sales and solutions resources. In return, developers commit to lead with IBM's middleware, server platforms and services in offerings to customers.

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