IBM backs its Linux bet

IBM backs its Linux bet

IBM's Linux business strategist for Australia, Elmer Corbin, is confident Big Blue will push the open source operating system into a broad range of vertical markets thereby dispelling what he claims are some popular myths tied to the brand.

Last year customers with a Web-serving workload like retailers, distributors, application and Internet services providers and small- to medium-sized businesses (typically an area claimed by Windows NT) "really started to demand Linux applications over IBM's e-servers", prompting IBM to join the Linux movement by forming a dedicated division, Corbin said.

Among clients like these, Corbin is trying to break the popular belief that firstly, Linux is not scalable, stressing it is being used in mission-critical applications such as Shell's supercomputer-based cluster for its oil exploration efforts.

Secondly, he said Linux would continue to "make it" in the mission-critical environment here, citing as prime testimony Thrifty Car Rental's recent deployment of IBM's X series servers and Red Hat Linux servers to support the car leaser's billing system.

Thirdly, Corbin said IBM would prove Linux was not a niche player, maintaining that Linux was being used in a wide range of markets like petroleum, retail and travel. "It is being deployed everywhere and it's the open-source characteristics of Linux that accelerate an organization's innovation."

Lastly, he said the notion of "Linux as Unix" was a misconception - that because users hold that Linux is Unix-like, it will be become a proprietary-focused model. Refuting this suggestion, Corbin said Linux was being deployed "even from the smallest wristwatch" and was based on an open platform.

Meanwhile, he claimed Big Blue had strong Linux initiatives in place to ensure clients would not migrate from its mainframes.

Specifically, he said IBM would focus on evangelising a new multiple workload consolidation feature in its e-server range. "We now have the capability to consolidate our server farms in terms of domain name servers, caching and firewalls - all the features that you wouldn't find in a Sun server - and that means powerful cost savings for the customer.

"The cost savings of a Sun server deployment on the IBM 390 would cost A$44 million (US$22.4 million) to configure and maintain over three years. That would cost A$12 million if it was a Linux OS deployment," he added.

And IBM is sitting pretty on the knowledge that Linux OS growth in the corporate space will be twice that of Windows NT by 2004 globally, based on projections market research company IDC made last year.

Corbin conceded that the only foreseeable challenge in pushing Linux into IBM's enterprise user base lay in the computer-maker's persuasiveness - "showing real-world examples that the IBM 390 had been the biggest seller among large businesses".

"Customers are not even thinking of using anything else but the IBM 390. We're getting the word out that you can run much better applications than just core business systems on Linux."

Six large organisations from Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra, none of whom Corbin could name, have shown keen interest in the IBM e-server's multidata workload consolidation feature, he said.

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