July 3, 2000
IBM Wants To Help Make Linux Happen
VP says vendor wants to use open-source operating system to integrate e-business solutions
|And from our sister publications:|
Send Us Your Feedback
InformationWeek: To date, you've introduced Linux on servers, notebook PCs, and mainframes. Why is Linux so important to IBM?
Irving Wladawsky-Berger: For us, it's an inflection point that's associated with our focus on creating E-business solutions. We're helping companies build content solutions, commerce solutions, operations solutions--and Linux is a standard that we can use to help integrate all of these. It makes it much easier to move application components around.
As a company, we're very sensitive to what it takes to achieve integration, because we're not just focused on selling this or that hardware platform. Linux will become the application development platform of choice for developers because of its multiplatform nature, and because it's not owned by any vendor. As a result of that, you can have vendors collaborating on standards.
InformationWeek: Does all this mean that Linux will eventually replace AIX, IBM's version of Unix?
Wladawsky-Berger: AIX continues to be our industrial-strength Unix operating system, and it always--well, for the foreseeable future at least--will be one or two steps ahead of Linux in maturity and ability. But we would like to make sure that Linux is part of an integrated Unix family, and the way we're trying to do that is to make sure that Linux applications can run seamlessly on AIX through the investment we're making in developing a Linux operating environment for AIX. But when you get to the larger symmetric multiprocessors and more mission-critical apps, it will be some time before Linux can handle this.
InformationWeek: IBM has yet to introduce a desktop system with Linux preinstalled. Is that going to happen?
Wladawsky-Berger: Oh yes--no question.
InformationWeek: What kind of time frame are we talking about?
Wladawsky-Berger: I don't know. But what I can tell you is that the step from preloading Linux in a ThinkPad to preloading it in a desktop is very small. Incidentally, there are a number of companies working on building open desktop interfaces for Linux--and because it's open, people will take this in all kinds of different directions.
InformationWeek: Despite your ownership of much of the enabling technology, IBM was never able to fully exploit the PC revolution. To what extent will Linux lessen your dependence on Microsoft and allow you to control, or at least influence, more of the PC value chain?
Wladawsky-Berger: This isn't about us fighting the PC battle again. That's not to say that people won't be building whole new desktops based on Linux, because they will. But we think all of our competitors will embrace it, too. I think Sun Microsystems will have no choice, and Microsoft will have to decide whether it's in their best interest to do so.
InformationWeek: If Microsoft is split up by court order, do you believe that will help drive the adoption rates for Linux?
Wladawsky-Berger: I honestly have no idea whether it helps or hurts. There are all kinds of vendors writing new applications to Linux, and Microsoft can be one of them if it wants.
InformationWeek: But does Microsoft's current preoccupation with the Justice Department open the door a little wider for Linux?
Wladawsky-Berger: I think those are independent issues. The Linux movement has been independent of anything Microsoft is doing. It's one of those cosmic movements in the industry, like the emergence of the Internet, or microprocessors.
InformationWeek: That's heady talk, to be sure. Do you really see Linux having the same impact on the technology world as the Internet?
Wladawsky-Berger: It has that Internet-like quality of helping to create standards that in the end will benefit everybody.
InformationWeek: What needs to happen if Linux is to become a mainstream operating system?
Wladawsky-Berger: It's already becoming mainstream, so the question is, how does it become more mainstream? The kernels have to become more robust, and that's happening. It's not black and white. Every six months, we'll see more users with more applications. One thing that's needed is more middleware support. That's why our bringing WebSphere to Linux will help drive its adoption for commerce applications.
InformationWeek: There's a delicious irony here. The saying is that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM, but now you're asking customers to try something that remains unproven in enterprise environments. Will IT managers, who are largely a conservative bunch, be willing to bet their careers on Linux?
Wladawsky-Berger: It's a matter of them becoming comfortable with it. The more that CIOs become comfortable with Linux, the more they'll deploy it where it makes sense. Using Linux for high-performance transaction applications is a few years away. But putting it on a Web server in front of something like the S/390 makes a lot of sense.
InformationWeek: But where does that comfort level begin?
Wladawsky-Berger: Hopefully from the fact that they see IBM behind Linux. We provide support and we provide integration. It's like the Internet--if you asked CIOs in 1995 whether they would run mission-critical applications over the Internet, they would think you were crazy.
InformationWeek: To what extent is IBM using Linux internally?
Wladawsky-Berger: We'll be using it more and more for a number of our Web businesses within IBM. It's permeating more and more of our systems. We also already have quite a few people whose ThinkPads are preloaded with Linux.
InformationWeek: Which sectors will be the early Linux adopters?
Wladawsky-Berger: Internet operations, people building Web applications for Intranet uses or external uses, research and education--those are probably the four most important segments right now.
InformationWeek: Why is Linux a good fit for those environments?
Wladawsky-Berger: In the Internet space, Linux is very popular because it's a means to get up and running very quickly. It has very good tools for Web servers and service providers, and it runs very nicely on PC servers, which are very popular in those spaces. In applications development, it's popular because many people are learning to write applications for Linux and they can port it to any other platform.
In the research labs, it's very appealing because people can collaborate in developing software. And in universities, it's taking off like crazy for the same reasons. And when we look at what it takes to build new wireless solutions and telecommunications environments, Linux seems to have a major role there.
InformationWeek: What about application service providers?
Wladawsky-Berger: It's very important for reasons that have to do with standards and skills, which ASPs are very dependent upon. For many applications, it's an easier environment to manage.
InformationWeek: Beyond professional markets, what will drive Linux out to the masses?
Wladawsky-Berger: I expect that there will be all kinds of new Internet appliances and servers in which Linux is an embedded operating system.
In another couple of years, you'll see some pretty sophisticated client devices that will use Linux in that capacity. It's very compact and has a small footprint and it's very inexpensive, so it's the kind of operating system that you could see being part of something like a Web phone or a personal organizer.
InformationWeek: How would you sum up IBM's Linux strategy?
Wladawsky-Berger: We want to help make Linux happen.
Photo by Dan Brinzac
- Digital Disruption - E2 Conference Boston
- The Language of UX: Beyond Buzzwords -
- Delve into technologies and business issues around mobile payments and wallets - Mobile Commerce World - Mobile Commerce World
- Learn how to best integrate mobile commerce with your current systems -- Mobile Commerce World - Mobile Commerce World
- Mobile Connect - E2 Conference Boston - E2 Conference Boston
- The Untapped Potential of Mobile Apps for Commercial Customers
- The Next Generation ESB: Why Integration is the Foundation for Better Business
- Secure Cloud: Taking Advantage of the Intelligent WAN
- Augment your data warehouse with big data solutions
- Real-Time Analytics: Big Data. Real Answers. Big Impact.
This Week's Issue
Free Print SubscriptionSubscribe
Current Government Issue
- The Government CIO 25: These influential and accomplished government IT leaders are finding ways to be cost efficient and still innovate.
- Rethink Video Surveillance: It's not just about networked cameras anymore. New technology provides analytics, automation, facial recognition, real-time alerts and situational-awareness capabilities.
- Read the Current Issue