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Linux and Intel Together: Ready for Prime Time

Cost and speed continue to be two of the top concerns for users shopping for high-end servers. In 2003, however, the availability of Intel's Itanium 2 and Xeon processors and the evolution of the Linux operating system have coalesced to create a broad array of server products aimed at the needs of users who want high-performance servers at affordable pricing.

"In 2003, a combination of things have allowed Itanium-based servers to scale up to where RISC platforms used to be," said Shannon Pulin, enterprise marketing manager at Intel, Portland, Ore. "Now, machines with up to 128 processors are available, as well as operating systems to support that level of scalability."

In the past 12 months, just about every well-known high-end server manufacturer, including IBM, SGI, Hewlett Packard and Fujitsu, has introduced products that incorporate the newest 64-bit Intel processor technology and support the Linux OS. Now, it's up to users to figure out whether these products actually will meet their needs as well as traditional RISC-based Unix servers do, while putting a lower price tag on total cost of ownership (TCO).

There's no question that Linux-based servers are increasing in popularity, a trend analysts predict will accelerate. Linux server revenue will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 28.3 percent, while worldwide Linux revenue will increase to $7.9 billion in 2007 from $2.3 billion in 2002, according to market research firm IDC's Worldwide Server Market Forecast (March 2003). Linux ships on at least 25 percent of new servers, IDC estimated.

"We are seeing everyone come to the table saying that they want an Intel platform that runs Linux and Windows," said Mark Feverston, vice president of platform marketing at Unisys, Blue Bell, Pa. "Clients looking at moving off of Unix tend to want to evaluate not just the OS but also the availability of toolsets and utilities and [the] maturity of those things."

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