IBM, Red Hat to galvanize Linux in emerging markets

IBM, Red Hat to galvanize Linux in emerging markets

IBM and Red Hat unwrapped a joint worldwide initiative to try to speed up the development and adoption of Linux-based applications Friday.

IBM and Red Hat unwrapped a joint worldwide initiative to try to speed up the development and adoption of Linux-based applications Friday. The companies are placing particular emphasis on emerging markets, like China, India, Russia and South Korea, according to a Big Blue executive. The deal is very similar to one IBM struck with Red Hat's main Linux competitor, Novell, back in March.

IBM and Red Hat will provide developers with technical support and implementation expertise to help them more quickly port and certify their new applications on Big Blue hardware and software and Red Hat's Enterprise Linux operating system, according to Todd Chase, program director of IBM Innovations Centers worldwide. "The snowball [demand] for Linux is continuing to grow," he said in a phone interview Thursday. "We keep hearing people asking for more help."

"One of the key issues with any environment is that the customer needs to have the feeling that if they adopt [the technology], there's a big player behind it that they can go to for support," Judith Hurwitz, president of analyst firm Hurwitz & Associates, said in a phone interview Thursday. "Or if there's a problem, a bump in the night, developers want to be able to hold someone responsible."

Developers will be able to access the IBM and Red Hat support either in person or remotely from 15 of IBM's 25 Innovation Centers around the globe, Chase said. While he couldn't put a financial figure on Big Blue's support for the initiative with Red Hat, he expects 20 to 25 IBM staff to be located in the 15 centers. Red Hat will be providing training on its Linux distribution at each of the sites, Chase added.

Six of the 15 centers are in emerging markets, with three in China -- in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai -- and one in Bangalore, India, one in Seoul, South Korea and one in Moscow, Russia. The others are in Sydney, Tokyo, Paris, Hursley in the U.K., Stuttgart in Germany, Amsterdam, and three in the U.S. in Waltham, Massachusetts, Chicago and San Mateo, California.

IBM and Red Hat decided upon which regional Innovation Centers should host their joint initiative after looking at where in the world they already both had a market presence or where they saw growth potential, according to Chase. When asked about expanding the program to the other 10 Innovation Centers, he said, "These are the first ones. We'll see how we do there first." IBM's joint initiative with Novell only covered nine Innovation Centers.

In 2004 as a whole, IBM provided support to 400 independent software vendors (ISVs) at its Innovation Centers to enable them to run their applications on Linux, Chase said. Already by the end of August this year, Big Blue had assisted the same number of ISVs, he added. In U.S. Innovation Centers, 70 to 75 percent of the contact with developers is done remotely, while that figure is in the 50 percent range in Europe and in the 20 percent range in Asia-Pacific, according to Chase.

"The Innovation Centers have been working really well for IBM," analyst Hurwitz said. "When a vendor approaches them and says they want to partner, IBM asks them, 'Have you ported to Linux?' and, if they haven't, IBM recommends the centers to help them with tools [to migrate to Linux.]"

Big Blue intends to increase the number of its centers shortly. "We expect the number of Innovation Centers to be in the mid-to-high 30s by year end," Chase said. IBM plans to turn its Brazilian satellite education center into a full Innovation Center before the end of this year, he added. The company will also be opening more Innovation Centers in China and Germany as well as one in Sweden all before Dec. 31, he said. IBM is interested in opening more Innovation Centers in India and will look into that in 2006, according to Chase.

IBM is also offering 29 new Linux tutorials on its DeveloperWorks Web site as of Friday, Chase said. The tutorials are aimed at both developers and students looking to take the Linux Professional Institute's Junior Level and Intermediate Level Administration exams. The company already offers 79 tutorials focused on the open-source operating system out of a total of 600 tutorials.

Big Blue estimates that more than 100,000 Linux developers have joined DeveloperWorks and have created over 6,500 Linux-based applications since 2003, according to information provided by the company. Every month, 250,000 developers visit the Linux zone on the DeveloperWorks site and more than 10,000 developers take part in DeveloperWorks' Linux tutorials every month, IBM said.

IBM's Power 5 architecture is proving popular among Linux developers involved with the Innovation Centers, according to Chase. He estimates that IBM has helped facilitate around 1,300 Linux applications running on Power-based processors to date and he expects to see 200 new such applications appear every quarter.

As to whether IBM may look to sign similar initiatives to the ones with Red Hat and Novell with sizable players in a particular geography, Chase admitted it was a possibility. "Red Flag [the leading local Linux player in China] is an interesting case," he said. "We haven't got to that layer yet. We're working globally downward in terms of who has the largest market share, but it's definitely a smart idea."

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