Twice a year, the Top500 Project publishes its list of the fastest supercomputers in the world. In the last announcement, we continue to see Linux dominating the list. This is nothing new since Linux has been dominating since the mid-2000s. In fact, Linux share in supercomputing looks a lot like Microsoft’s historical share of the desktop market.
I attended HP’s press conference this morning and Linux again took center stage as a major technology leader revealed the details of its mobile device strategy. HP announced two new WebOS phones and more importantly an impressive new tablet that is a clear contender against the iPad. While I don’t for one second underestimate Apple, that was not the most interesting part of the event for me.
Last week, Broadcom announced they have open sourced the drivers for their latest 802.11n chipsets. This is significant because as closed source drivers, their chipsets were basically non-functional with Linux. By open sourcing these drivers, they can now be included in the Linux kernel. Broadcom joins virtually all other chipset suppliers who have made their drivers open source and compatible with Linux for some time. This driver is now in the staging kernel tree and should be mainlined in a future version of Linux, most likely 2.6.37.
Collaborative development has leveled the playing field and given power to the individual. One young man from Finland started a project, invited others to help, and started a computing revolution. Today two people can use cloud services and free software to start businesses that before needed millions of VC funding. Small device manufacturers, by using open source, can now use the same software used by industry giants. There has been one space missing, however: large scale super computing.
The iPhone 4 came out this week. Apple continues to raise the bar for the mobile software industry in terms of good design. Companies that have embraced Linux should take heed. I ask the question as to whether or not Linux can beat Apple today in Businessweek.
Lately I have been hearing criticism about embedded Linux and how fragmentation, as represented by the many flourishing Linux projects such as Meego, Android and webOS, is bad and dangerous for Linux; these critics suggest that fragmentation will hinder Linux’ ability to compete with companies like Microsoft and Apple. I disagree, which is not surprising. But the market and marketing strategists also disagree. Citing the familiar ogre of fragmentation shows a limited view of the Linux economy.
The Linux platform is both fragmented and unified.
For those of us that have worked for years in open source, rumors in the press of IBM “breaking its open source patent pledge” were met with a bit of dismay. IBM is one of the top contributors to the Linux kernel and dozens of critical open source projects. For more than a decade IBM has been a good citizen in the open source community.
Earlier this week, IBM announced a cloud computing program offering development and test services for companies and governments. That doesn’t sound like much, yet on closer inspection it’s a flagstone in the march toward a comprehensive cloud offering at Big Blue. It also demonstrates how operational efficiency is a competitive weapon in our service economy. Let me explain.