IBM appears hell-bent on making 2001 the year it establishes Linux as a major e-business platform enterprise and is poised to put its money, technology and marketing muscle behind it.
In his keynote address that opened LinuxWorld Expo on Wednesday, IBM president and CEO Sam Palmisano said the open-source operating system is ready to leap the chasm between merely being "a nice modular technology" for smaller business systems, to being an integral platform for conducting "real e-business".
"We see Linux as ready for real e-business, mission-critical applications because of its rapid global adoption, its inherent enablement for multiple platforms, and [because] it is now and will continue to be the fastest-growing operating system in the world," Palmisano said.
Palmisano quoted recent market share numbers from IDC that showed Linux having captured 28 per cent unit share of the overall server market in 2000. He said he expects that figure to jump to 38 per cent by 2004.
To help ensure Linux is even more readily adopted by large corporate accounts, IBM will dedicate $US300 million of the $1 billion it has earmarked for Linux this year towards services and support over the next three years. Many of those services will be designed to help large accounts develop and integrate Linux and compatible applications into their existing host-based environments.
"It is as simple as this: people out there need to [decide] whether they are going to vote for Linux and open-source technologies or not. IBM has voted to back open-source technologies. We are putting a lot of our prosperity at stake with this [$1 billion] investment," Palmisano said.
Despite its investment and its other considerable economic and technological resources, Palmisano admits that IBM cannot ultimately establish Linux as a premiere e-business platform by itself. The company will continue to work even more aggressively with the Linux community at large to accomplish that goal.
"IBM invests $5 billion a year in research, but we can't solve this problem ourselves. By working together we can entrench Linux as a serious e-business platform," Palmisano said.
One by one, Palmisano tried to debunk what he believes are the four myths of Linux: that it has little scalability, that it is only a niche operating system, that it cannot be used for mission-critical applications, and that it is a chaotic "bathtub of code" from which anyone can create without adhering to standards.
Attempting to prove that Linux can scale, Palmisano said that over the past year multiple Fortune 1000 companies and universities have successfully implemented supercomputer-class implementations, including the University of Illinois and Shell Oil, which has set up a 1000-server node network.
Palmisano said Linux has now grown out of being a niche operating system, as is evidenced by the diverse market segments now using it for a wide range of application needs.
"You can say that [Linux] is being mostly used by ISPs, telcos and other Web services providers. Well, just those markets are about a $1 trillion niche. That is a niche big enough to play in, even for IBM," Palmisano quipped.
Trying to shatter the notion that Linux is not ready to control corporations' mission-critical applications, Palmisano pointed to several deals with companies that are buying native versions of Linux to run on Big Blue's z900 series of mainframes, or to run it in a partition under the OS/390 mainframe operating system.
Palmisano cited recently released total cost of ownership studies that show Unix-based workloads consolidated on a single IBM mainframe prove corporate users can save significant investments on hardware, software, services, and administrative costs.