Red Hat and IBM will jointly help software vendors certify their applications for Linux in a partnership announced today.

The programme is designed to make it easier for vendors to migrate their software to Linux, and will also give IBM and Red Hat a boost by enlarging the pool of applications certified to run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux with IBM hardware and middleware.

ISV (independent software vendor) certification has become more important as Linux has moved further into the enterprise, since certifications allow businesses to ensure a particular package will run on their platform. However, because each Linux distribution is slightly different from the next, it is necessary for ISVs to certify for each distribution separately.

Red Hat already has sales and support deals with the major server makers - IBM, Dell, HP and Sun - but so far certification has been left largely to individual ISVs. Under the joint Linux ISV Certification Support Programme, IBM and Red Hat will play a more active role, with Red Hat providing technology and support services and IBM giving partners access to its Innovation Centres for Business Partners, which provide services such as on-site or remote support during application porting.

IBM has Innovation Centres in Hursley, England; Moscow, Russia; Paris, France; and Stuttgart, Germany as part of a broader $1 billion initiative to provide partners with training, migration and testing services. The company says it has 4,700 business partners supporting Linux-enabled IBM software.

One target market will be geophysics companies such as the oil industry, where Linux has become increasingly popular. Fugro-Jason CIS, which carries out geological surveys, recently completed porting its software using an IBM eServer Cluster 1350 and Linux at IBM's Moscow Innovation Centre, according to Fugro-Jason director Vadim Khromov.

Other Linux vendors have tried to simplify ISV certification by eliminating some of the differences between distributions, so that a certification for one distribution is valid for others. One effort in this direction was UnitedLinux, whose members agreed to base their platforms on Suse's distribution. That effort fell apart after one member - the SCO Group - turned into a Linux foe.

Last month, some of UnitedLinux's former members formed the Linux Core Consortium, which aims to create a binary implementation of the Linux Standard Base (LSB) 2.0, an effort to standardise some of Linux's workings. The LCC's members are Conectiva, Mandrakesoft, Progeny and Turbolinux; Red Hat and Suse have not joined but pledged their support.

Some prominent industry figures have argued that such cross-distribution programmes should be the way forward, rather than certifications for individual Linux vendors. When Sun Microsystems launched its first Linux server two years ago, chief executive Scott McNealy told a LinuxWorld audience: "We need to force the world to LSB compliance, not Red Hat or IBM compliance."

IBM intends to promote "a non-proprietary, multi-platform approach to implementing open standards", said Lesley Norris, director of ISV and developer relations for IBM Europe, in a statement. "Linux is central to this strategy and our collaboration with Red Hat ensures that business partners can benefit from our joint commitment to open source solutions."

More information on the certification programme is available from Red Hat's website.