If IBM (NYSE:IBM) sells its x86 server business to Lenovo (as many reports expect) it's a safe bet that Lenovo will remain committed to supporting Linux (Red Hat and SUSE, in particular) and Windows Server across the hardware line. Here's why.

First, the background: Media chatter suggests IBM wants to exit the commodity x86 server market. The likely buyer is Lenovo, which purchased IBM's PC business in 2005. The chatter comes as Lenovo hosts its Accelerate channel partner conference in Las Vegas, and IBM seeks to recover from a weak financial quarter -- particularly in the hardware market.

IBM has a long history of supporting both Windows and Linux on its x86 server line. More than a decade ago, IBM bet $1 billion on the Linux market. The big winners were Red Hat (NYSE:RHT) and SUSE, both of which emerged as preferred IBM partners in the open source market. By supporting both Red Hat and SUSE, IBM worked hard to ensure continued competition in the Linux market. Indeed, Big Blue did not want Red Hat to dominate the Linux server market the way Windows dominated the desktop in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

To some extent, IBM has also dabbled with Ubuntu, offering Canonical's Linux distribution as part of various Desktop as a Service (DaaS) initiatives.

Meanwhile, Lenovo also has experience in the Linux server market. The company's ThinkServer lineup supports Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. The VAR Guy believes Lenovo's servers also are certified for Red Hat, though our resident blogger doesn't know if Lenovo pre-installs Red Hat Enterprise Linux on its systems.

For channel partners some big questions remain. For instance, if IBM sells its x86 server business to Lenovo:

  • Where will IBM draw the line between x86 servers and its converged PureFlex systems?
  • How will Lenovo honor IBM's certified x86 channel partners?
  • Which IBM employees will make the transition to Lenovo?
  • How will IBM leverage x86 server technology in its own SmartCloud initiative?

The VAR Guy is tracking those questions, and more, as chatter about this deal continues to grow louder...