According to Dan Powers, vice president of Linux solutions at IBM, porting Linux to alternative chip architectures is a relatively straightforward procedure.
This is because the chip-specific parts of the operating system were separated out in the early 1990s when open source developers, led by Linux founder Linus Torvalds, started to port it from Intel x32 chips to Compaq Alpha and Sun Sparc.
Until now, organisations have tended to deploy 32-bit Linux on low-cost, low-specification Intel-based systems. Using a 64-bit version of Linux they will be able to run considerably more complex and power-hungry applications such as large databases or financial systems at a lower cost.
IBM began work on a 64-bit version of Linux, based on its PowerPC RISC processor, in mid-2000. The operating system will be known as ThinkBlue/64.
Linux distributors Red Hat and Germany-based SuSE also plan to sell 64-bit versions of the Linux operating system during the first half of 2002. According to executives at SuSE, a 64-bit version has been in development for months and a beta version will be available soon.