IBM Brings Linux to the Client Side

At LinuxWorld in August, IBM unveiled plans to roll out new thin-client workstations that run on the Linux operating system. The announcement is part of Big Blue's strategy to deploy the open-source software across all its platforms, including the AS/400. However, specific plans for thin-client and native support for Linux in AS/400 environments have not been announced.

The solution enables sites to customize applications for a specific thin client using local flash memory. IBM took this approach to help sites get thin clients up and running quickly, Boulay explains.
IBM's first crop of Linux-powered NetVista Thin Clients will support access to Linux, Windows NT, and Windows 2000 servers, says Paul Boulay, program director of marketing for IBM Net Devices. "They now have all of the necessary capabilities to support this," he says. "Over time, we'll add AIX and AS/400 when that becomes available."

The solution enables sites to customize applications for a specific thin client using local flash memory. IBM took this approach to help sites get thin clients up and running quickly, Boulay explains. "We decided almost a year ago to develop a more appliance-like device, rather than having to establish a Linux image on a server. The flash tool will provide customers the option to create their own very customized flash image. Customers with remote locations will be able to avoid booting thin clients over their wide area networks, or through local servers."

IBM's NetVista N2200l thin client employs software based on TurboLinux 6.1, from TurboLinux Inc. (San Francisco). The configuration includes an ICA client for accessing Windows applications, emulators for server-based applications, and a browser with an internal JVM for Web applications. Hardware supported includes existing models of the N2800 with Ethernet or Token Ring network interfaces. The N2200l is Ethernet only. The memory configuration is 64MB RAM (up to 288MB RAM), with a 16-bit audio data width.

IBM is initially working with TurboLinux because of the national language support and system management features offered by TurboLinux 6.1, says Boulay. "Because we have a worldwide customer base, language support was a key criteria," he explains. In addition, IBM "wanted to make sure that the plumbing for SNMP and system management facilities were intact, and Turbo seems to have the best offering in that respect."

IBM also works with most other major Linux distributions to support other offerings as well, adds Boulay.

IBM will be providing an upgrade path for current thin client sites as well, Boulay states. "If you're into Linux, then we want to help you," he says. "Linux has tremendous flexibility and customization capabilities." For IT managers not sold on Linux, Boulay hopes to convince them that the open-source operating system "is the best solution for moving to the latest Netscape browser, JVM level, or Citrix ICA client."

Boulay also points out that the current Network Station Manager operating system is based on BSD Unix, "which is also a free, open source type of operating environment." Replacing this system with Linux will better enable IBM and its customers to better take advantage of the large amount of software development taking place on Linux, he says. "Customers will want to leverage the customization and flexible nature of Linux and open source to the maximum. They want to be able to immediately download the latest browser when it becomes available, or IBM's latest JVM technology, which is increasingly being deployed first on Linux. In the past, there's been somewhat of a lag time in making new components available on our thin-client platforms."

IBM expects to ship the Linux thin clients in the fourth quarter, and will provide pricing at that time.

Related Editorial:

  • New Blue Takes on an Open Hue
  • IBM's Newest Move Brings Simplicity to the Desktop

    Related Information:

  • IBM AS/400 Division (new window)
  • IBM Linux Page (new window)
  • IBM NetVista Page (new window)