IBM is working with developers to make applications portable between 64bit Linux and its next-generation 64bit Unix operating system, codenamed Monterey/64.
Miles Barel, IBM's program director for AIX and Monterey, said this week that Big Blue is developing interfaces that would provide binary and programming compatibility so that applications developed for 64bit Linux could work on the Monterey platform.
IBM formed Project Monterey in October 1998 to make its AIX Unix variant source code compatible with the Santa Cruz Operation's Unixware offering before porting it to Intel's IA-64 processor. Big Blue expects to ship Monterey/64 at the same time as Intel releases its 64bit Itanium processor, which is due this autumn.
Barel said application portability between the 64bit operating systems would be "key focus" for IBM. "It's the applications that are important, not the operating system on which they run," he said.
Analysts said the commitment would allow IBM to take advantage of the work of Linux developers and put it still further ahead of its competitors in embracing the open source operating system.
Chris Martin, an analyst at Xephon, said: "For independent software vendors this is great because it means they only have to write an application once. However, how useful this is depends on the depth of the compatibility."
Martin explained that applications are usually optimised to run on a particular platform and that there is a danger that performance will take a severe hit if they are run on another operating system.
"There have been various attempts at binary compatibility and not many have succeeded," he said. "What you tend to get is the lowest common denominator."
Barel added that it should be possible to run "many or most applications," but admitted that initially there would be some limitations.
Asked about how IBM would position Monterey against Linux, Barel conceded that Linux could be as scalable as the vendor's own Unix offerings but said he believed this would be at least five years away. He said that scalability, volume and systems management features present in IBM's Unix operating system, AIX, are still missing from Linux.
In a separate development, Bull this week announced that it had become the first company to have successfully ported and run the 64bit Unix operating system from Project Monterey on an 8-way Itanium server.
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