The four leading Linux distributors are burying rivalries to join the Trillian Project, the attempt to port the Linux operating system to Intel's forthcoming IA-64 architecture.
The consortium, which already includes IBM, Intel, VA Linux Systems and HP, aims to have IA-64 Linux available for distribution when the first systems based on Intel's IA-64 Itanium processor begin shipping, slated for the second half of 2000.
Red Hat, Caldera, Suse and Turbolinux will make their commercial distributions of Linux available at the Itanium processor launch. According to IDC, the big four combined accounted for 76 per cent of 1998 worldwide revenue for Linux shipments.
Peter Lemon, senior analyst at IDC, said that the Linux distributors are becoming "proper grown-up companies. They need a firm road map to offer investors."
He added: "A consortium such as Trillian shows that Itanium will be the default platform for the next five to 10 years. Everybody has to be there or be nowhere."
Colin Tenwick, vice president and general manager European operations for Red Hat, said that a lot of R&D in Trillian will be done via Cygnus Solutions - already a member of Trillian - which Red Hat acquired in November.
"The move further endorses the progress Linux is making, and underlines our relationship with Intel," he added. "A powerful, commercial distribution will be available from day one."
IDC's Lemon believes that Trillian is an attempt to "head off what happened to the Unix model. When people started to use it, it fragmented fast."
"Whether a consortium can stop the rot rather than real business logic, remains to be seen," he added.
Dr. Stefan Werden, vice president of Suse business development, said Suse's commitment to the kernel development for the Itanium processor means customers will "not only receive a distribution optimally tuned to the performance of Itanium, but will also be able to rely on complete Suse support services right from the start."
Cliff Miller, chief executive of Turbolinux, said, "Our focus is on high-performance Linux, clustering technologies and internationalisation of Linux. We are committed to assisting the Trillian project to optimise Linux on the IA-64 platform."
Benoy Tamang, vice president of marketing for Caldera Systems, said, "A Linux-enabled IA-64 architecture will allow our electronic service providers to create ebusiness solutions for high-end performance platforms."
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