Independent software vendors are beginning to provide the needed heavy-duty application push that IT and e-commerce managers are looking for before adopting operating systems. For example, SAS Institute, a data warehousing and decision support vendor based in Cary, N.C., plans to release a Linux version of its flagship SAS software by the end of year."Based on the increasing number of Fortune 1,000 companies looking seriously at Linux as a viable operating system, we felt that the time was right for us to offer a Linux version of SAS software," says Keith Collins, SAS Institute's vice president of research and development. SAS surveyed 550 customers and found that more than 75% were already running Linux, and almost 90% expressed interest in licensing a production release of SAS software for Linux. More than 70% of SAS customers surveyed indicated they were either using or considering Linux for their Web servers.

Other technology suppliers also are jumping on the Linux bandwagon. Enterprise resource planning giant SAP AG, based in Walldorf, Germany, revealed earlier this year that it was shipping a Linux-based version of its SAP R/3 system. The company also is making available additional components, including the SAP Business Information Warehouse and SAP Business-to-Business Procurement, on Linux.

Noting the growth of Linux demand among its own customer base, Dell Computer Corp., Round Rock, Texas, has labeled Linux its "third strategic operating system" for its server line, along with Windows and Novell NetWare. The computer maker recently forged an alliance with Red Hat.

A typical enterprise-scale architecture, for example, could consist of a server farm of Pentium processor-based servers running Linux to support Web applications, linked into Unix-based database servers and Microsoft Windows NT servers for departmental applications.

Intel Corp. has gone from neutrality to an active supporter of Linux, giving rise to a new "LinTel" alliance. Intel recently launched a program that supports Linux deployments among its original equipment manufacturing partners. The operating system source code for running Linux on Intel's 64-bit Itanium chipset-which recently began shipping-also is available at no cost.

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