IBM claims its Linux business is growing at 65 per cent a year, close to double the Linux adoption rate estimated by market researcher IDC. The head of IBM's Linux software business, Scott Handy, told an audience at the company's Developerworks event in New Orleans that the growth is partly a result of hitting a market "sweetspot". But Handy also put it down to greater availability of Linux applications and the willingness of small and medium-sized organisations to adopt them. Handy's sweetspot is situated between Linux reliability and Intel processor price performance. That translates into greater Linux scalability, shown at Developerworks in a demonstration of DB2 running on a 40-node Linux cluster. On the application front, SAP is notching up some successes on Linux, numbering more than 1000 customers, Handy said, up from about 200 in 2001. Handy is responsible for the promotion of IBM's own Linux-based applications as well as shared marketing and promotion of software sold by business partners. The marketing challenges are three-fold, he said. The first is delivering the message that there is a wide variety of applications for Linux. Handy said this is not as difficult as might be thought: direct mail marketing that mentions a Linux software release averages two-and-a-half times the response of other direct-marketing software campaigns. And developer partners are coming to the party by deploying the company's 12-month-old Speed Start Linux development kit to create 6500 Linux server applications. The second challenge, according to Handy, is getting across the message that companies are actually running business applications on Linux. There are now enough well-known users of Linux for serious business applications to provide good site references, said Handy. One he mentions is Groehe, the German tapware manufacturer, which is running SAP on Linux. Handy's last challenge is spreading the word that Linux is scalable enough to handle applications across the board, from small enterprises to large global organisations. With much improved threading in the 2.4 release of the Linux kernel, and improved performance on multiprocessor machines, Handy said Linux will scale as far as you need it to. He pointed to a 10-fold improvement in the performance of IBM's Domino under the 2.4 Linux kernel.
Symmetric multiprocessing under Linux works well on machines up to around eight or 16 processors, said Handy, while clustering will scale up to 2000 nodes or more.