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A handful of IT vendors are stepping up marketing and support efforts for Linux solution providers with an eye to increasing business opportunities around the open-source operating system.

While solution providers already working with Linux report that it is a profitable business, some misconceptions remain about the open-source operating system among users and channel companies.

Standing in the way of customer adoption are uncertainties over cost and the degree of difficulty of managing Linux systems, said David Dennis, director of products at Levanta, a developer of Linux management systems in San Mateo, Calif.

Solution providers, he said, often don’t know what angle to play up when pitching the open-source technology to customers.

Levanta aims to knock down barriers and change perceptions that hobble adoption of Linux technology. The vendor teamed up with three other companies – big names in the industry—to gather more information on Linux trends, opportunities and needs in the IT channel.

The other vendors are Hewlett-Packard, of Palo Alto, Calif.; Advanced Micro Devices, of Sunnyvale, Calif.; and Novell, of Waltham, Mass.

Together, the four vendors commissioned a study to get a better sense of how much Linux activity there is in the IT channel and how they can capitalize on it. The study did not reveal what percentage of channel companies work with Linux, but indicated that solution providers that sell and service Linux solutions do so profitably. The more work they do with Linux, according to the study, the more profitable they are.

Click here to view exclusive channel research from Amazon Consulting.

Topping the list of reasons solution providers sell Linux is cost savings, and that is followed successively by security, reliability and performance.

Chip maker AMD is using the findings to evaluate how its development and design of new processors can be applied to Linux solutions, said Margaret Lewis, the vendor’s director of commercial solutions.

AMD, she added, has participated in the Linux market space all along. When the vendor released its first 64-bit Opteron processors, Linux was the only operating system that could support the technology.

Paul Yoachum, partner and channel marketing manager at Novell, said vendors, in crafting their Linux message, have to take into account that the IT channel traditionally has by and large worked with proprietary offerings. So vendors have to figure out how to communicate the benefits of working in the open-source environment.

But working with Linux does not mean turning your back on Windows or Unix systems. In fact, the 250 solution providers that participated in the study, conducted by the Institute for Partner Development and Education, in Manhasset, N.Y., also work with technology other than Linux.

“Our whole philosophy is embracing the fact that partners and customers have heterogeneous environments,” said Jeffrey Wade, who is responsible for Linux product marketing at HP. “It’s not about Linux or Windows, or Windows or Unix; it’s how those things work together.”

AMD’s Lewis said the vendors will evaluate ways to work together in promoting Linux.

“We need to form partnerships. It’s hard to move channels forward without those types of partnerships,” said Lewis.