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IBM Wants Its Share Of Unix Glory

Unix isn't a flashy market. But what distinction there is has been going to Sun Microsystems lately, by making its Unix-based Solaris operating system available as open-source software. Last week, IBM moved to put its AIX Unix operating system back on everybody's radar by revealing plans to create a development center on its Austin, Texas, campus to speed up AIX development.

Unix Market ShareThe AIX Collaboration Center will house IBM's best Unix software engineers and Power chip designers and provide a place to showcase AIX developments to customers, partners, and independent software vendors. The center will be where customers can get a peek at AIX 5.4, the next major release of the operating system that's due in 2007. That release is expected to offer needed advances in security, availability, and system virtualization--attributes that keep mission-critical databases and applications running on AIX, as well as its Solaris and Hewlett-Packard HP-UX competitors.

But while IBM touted the $200 million it will invest in the center over two years, that figure includes a lot of existing IBM AIX developers, customer-relations specialists, and partner-relations staffers. The efforts of those employees will be consolidated around the Austin center, even if they're not new additions to the payroll, says Karl Freund, VP of IBM's pSeries servers, on which AIX runs.

AIX has been out of the limelight as IBM has thrown a lot of its marketing weight behind Linux. Freund repeated what IBM has said before, that the company backs Linux as its preferred open-source operating system. But the Austin center "is a way to say to the Unix community that we're making a similar investment in AIX," he says.

Despite Sun's Solaris success--there have been 3.5 million downloads of the open-source version since June, Sun says--IBM has no intention of making AIX an open-source product. And, Freund says, IBM will continue to be the sole writer of code that goes into AIX.