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IBM's Linux Strategist Explains Gluecode Deal

Adam Jollans, chief Linux strategist at the IBM Software Group, sheds light on IBM's app server strategy, Gluecode's role alongside WebSphere, and the small- and midsize-business opportunities that Gluecode creates for IBM partners in an interview with CRN Editor in Chief Michael Vizard.
CRN: Does this also give you another way to battle Microsoft's .Net at the lower end of the market?

JOLLANS: I think the key decision is down to, are you going to go for Java, straight J2EE or .Net? Now if you're going to make a decision for .Net, then you're going to go along the Microsoft line, using the application server they have as part of their products. If you decide you're going to go for the open, portable heterogeneous approach, then that's going to be the space of Java and J2EE. And there's a sort of an either/or decision. Geronimo runs on top of both Windows and Linux today. So this is an open-source play. It's not just a Linux play.

CRN: Microsoft has been talking about creating a unified object model by combining its file system with its relational database. You have donated your Cloudscape database to the Linux community, which is now called Project Derby. Will the Linux community try to bring Apache, Derby and Geronimo together to counter Microsoft?

JOLLANS: That's an option. I think it's too early to say that in terms of an incubator project at the moment. But we're using Cloudscape as a local data store in a lot of our products.

CRN: Speaking of Linux, it seems that IBM tends to favor Red Hat in the United States over other Linux distributions. Is there a reason for that, or is it just a general perception?

JOLLANS: We can always do more in terms of partners. But our basic strategy is that we feel it's important that there's choice in terms of Linux. From that point of view, it's good that there's more than one strong Linux distribution. Now, as an ISV, which is what we are as well, we look at the sort of cost of testing and supporting different distributions. We want to minimize the number of distributions that we're supporting for our products because this costs a lot and takes a lot of resources.

Remember, we're 350 products across three different chip architectures. You've got to minimize, which is why you come down to two as a good number in this space. It's not a perfect solution. But two is a good number to go with. We treat both Red hat and Novell equally in terms of partners we're working with.

CRN: That sounds like an argument to reduce the number of products and SKUs you need to support. Is that happening?

JOLLANS: We can try, yes. It's better than it was.

CRN: Given all the acquisitions IBM has made over the years in software--including Tivoli, Lotus and Rational--a lot of competitors would say that IBM's software group is akin to a Frankenstein project, where IBM is trying to tie a bunch a parts together to make something unnatural come alive. What's your response?

JOLLANS: There's a software group strategy organization, which is looking at those issues. And then there's a very big project where we're componentizing the individual brands. Instead of it being a WebSphere stack that includes Tivoli, security and a data store, what we're doing is componentizing the software into the individual bits like security or data store and then recombining those into products.

So you write the security once, you write the data store once and then you're able to use it in a whole variety of products, which is actually bringing the five brands much closer together. So you'll see a WebSphere portal combined with DB2, for example. We've done some revamping. For example, DB2 Information Integrator has become WebSphere Information Integrator. We'll also transfer ownership into different brands, so WebSphere portal is now being developed by the same team that is developing Lotus Workplace in Lotus. We believe componentization is a better way to build complex software.

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