IBM plans to ramp up its support of Linux with a variety of programs designed to lure companies away from Microsoft NT. Some of the new initiatives will be unveiled this week at the annual LinuxWorld trade show in New York.

“By the end of 2004, Microsoft is expected to discontinue support for the Windows NT operating system and discontinue the availability of security patches, which will require up to two million customers to develop a migration strategy,” IBM said in a statement. “As customers around the globe make the decision to migrate to a new platform, many will consider Linux, which is gaining popularity in a variety of industry sectors, including government, retail, finance and manufacturing because of its reliability and low cost.”

IBM, which recently agreed to invest $50 million in Novell after it acquired SuSE Linux, also is a partner with Raleigh-based Red Hat.

IBM’s business partner offerings will include education, tutorials and customer scenarios designed to show how companies can migrate to Linux from Microsoft NT.

“The lack of support for Windows NT, along with the discontinuance of security patches for the operating system, will impact millions of customers around the world as they migrate to a new platform,” said IBM’s Scott Handy, vice president, Linux strategy and market development, in a statement. “IBM Business Partners are responding to customer demand by offering Linux as a migration option in addition to Windows Server 2003. Since IBM offers solutions that support both Windows and Linux servers, IBM Business Partners and customers have the flexibility to select the platform that best meets their needs.”