LinuxCon Keynote Series: An Interview with IBM’s Bob Sutor
In the run up to LinuxCon, we’ve sat down with a number of the conference’s keynote speakers. This week it’s IBM’s Vice President of Open Source and Linux Bob Sutor. Bob is kicking off LinuxCon with his keynote, “Regarding Clouds, Mainframes, Desktops and Linux,” and also participating in a panel discussion with Oracle’s Monica Kumar and Adobe’s Dave McAllister on Open Standards and Linux. Bob is a well known authority on Linux and open standards (as well as a writer and guitar player), so we’re extremely pleased to have him speak at LinuxCon. I caught up with him via email last week.
Q: You’re opening up LinuxCon with the morning keynote on day 1 and will be addressing the cloud, mainframes and the desktop. Where is the single biggest opportunity for Linux? Why?
A: Just one? I think Linux is such a natural for virtualization, both as a host and as a guest, and this will drive Linux even deeper into datacenters. Why? Linux and virtualization increase efficiency, allow consolidation, help reduce power and heat generated, and reduce server footprint. When you combine this with the quality of service offered by mainframes, you get even more benefits. When you open all this up to new ways of scheduling and managing applications, clouds emerge. So I think virtualization is key to what will foster greater use of Linux in the next decade.
Q: It has been 18 years now since Linus posted his “hobby” operating system online. And, IBM this year is celebrating 10 years of Linux. What has been your biggest surprise as the technology has matured over nearly two decades?
A: Linux could have stayed small and appealed to a small group of computer scientists. Instead, the community development process and leadership nurtured the operating system so that it has kept up with the needs of all the different kinds of Linux users. Many would even say that Linux has stayed ahead of those needs. So Linux has evolved from a one person project to something that runs many of the most mission critical applications around the world. I think anyone would be surprised by that!
Q: IBM has always said that Linux is smart (and big) business. Other companies have followed suit. As one of the original corporate backers of the technology, what best practices can you share with companies new to the Linux development process?
A: I’ll quote or paraphrase Eric Raymond and say that companies new to the Linux development process must “scratch their own itch.” That means understanding what Linux does and does not do for them today, and then throwing their efforts into solving the latter issues. Focus first on your areas of current expertise and gain new expertise by working with other members of the community. From a business perspective, use Linux to complement or enhance your existing or planned offerings. Work actively to take Linux to new places it has never gone before (and sorry to channel Star Trek!).
Q: IBM remains high on the list of “sponsors” of the Linux kernel, according to the Linux Foundation’s recent “Who Writes Linux” update. Can you tell us how that “sponsorship” translates into real business results for your company?
A: If we are a successful sponsor of this open source project, Linux runs very well on top of our hardware and underneath our software, but not to our exclusive advantage. As a public company, success as a sponsor means that Linux delivers increased revenue and shareholder value via the hardware and software we sell and the business and technology services we offer.
Q: Can you give us an update from the open standards front?
A: I think people are really starting to understand the value of truly open standards versus proprietary specifications that have been forced upon them. One important open standard that has gotten a lot of deserved attention in recent years, the Open Document Format, is being adopted in more and more countries around the world. The Open Cloud Manifesto has over 250 company and group supporters. I believe the message is clear: the industry and users will benefit the most from an emerging technology when open standards are at the core, and there as early as possible.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at the debut year of LinuxCon?
A: I always try to get an early sense of the vibe of a conference. Is there excitement among the participants? Are people looking forward to creating more technical innovation and greater business growth? Is the community expanding? Are there grand challenges that developers are ready to leap into? I think I’ll see, hear, and feel all that at LinuxCon. I’m also looking to meet in person many of the people involved with the Linux Foundation.