IBM's new Linux-based mainframe says a lot about the way a company can make Linux a cornerstone of its business. It's an all-Linux machine, one which might well spell out a high-end strategy for other hardware vendors to follow.
According to Computerworld, the server itself is a behemonth -- a $200,000+ machine designed to eclipse both their older mainframe offerings and high-end x86-based servers. It's been built to allow business not just to run Linux well, but to add horsepower on demand when businesses need it -- and to do that without disrupting anything else currently running.
The easy folk wisdom about open source is that it's ushering a new era of non-competition between many kinds of vendors, where all that's worth selling and competing over is services. Thing is, I don't buy this for a minute: there's still plenty of proprietary software left to be written and sold. And proprietary hardware, too. (Most people will shrug and point to the fact that services are a big chunk of IBM's revenue, but let's face it -- it's the iron that gets people's attention right up front.)
What's also being enabled through open source is a new generation of vendor-specific hardware, too -- like IBM's mainframe -- which builds on Linux in such a way that it enables a whole new realm of competition for Linux-specific hardware rather than "open systems".
Seeing things like this convinces me all the more that the love affair that many companies have with Linux is quite practical. It allows them to get a good deal for very little, and to contribute back the work they do for all of it in such a way that it can't really be used against them.
And when a major realm of your competition is hardware -- and hardware that will continue to cost a great deal, that will embody a large percent of your perceptible innovation, and will continue to evolve enormously in the years to come -- you have all the more reason to not shoot yourself in the foot.
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