Many application server makers are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Linux -- with the exception of a handful of firebrands led by Oracle Corp.
Oracle sees a unique advantage by porting both its Oracle8 database and Oracle Application Server 3.0 and 4.0 to Linux.
For cases where only the database and transaction server are required, Linux offers an open-source code kernel for inexpensive Intel server hardware.
"It's safe to say Linux is a top-tier platform for our products," said John Fomook, marketing director at Oracle, in Redwood Shores, California. On the other hand, Fomook added, "we're not seeing a rush to go mission-critical. That might be a little premature. But by the end of 1999, that story will have changed."
Analysts agreed that the possibility of Linux supporting application servers is not that far-fetched.
"Linux is as strong as most of the other business-oriented Unix platforms in term of its kernel. There's a limited number of tools, but it's a nice, cheap alternative," said Anne Thomas, an analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group, in Boston.
Leverage Information Systems recently delivered its Locomotive server as a free open-source offering on Linux, hoping to become "the Red Hat of Web application servers," said Christine Etheredge, a software engineer at Leverage, in San Francisco.
Bluestone Software takes a different approach in deploying its pure Java Sapphire application server on Linux by leveraging the openly available Java virtual machines for Linux, according to Al Smith, vice president of software development at Bluestone, in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.
However, Smith cautions, "I have yet to find a customer deploying serious apps on Linux."
And that is why vendors such as Allaire, Gemstone, NetDynamics, and Netscape say they are looking carefully at Linux but are not yet releasing a port of their servers on the operating system. Netscape, however, is porting its Directory Server and Messaging Server to Linux.
"We're watching our customers and taking their lead," said Steve Seminario, director of product marketing, at Gemstone, in Beaverton, Oregon.