IBM is celebrating more than a decade working with Linux, and Dan Frye was the co-author of the original IBM corporate strategies for Linux and open source. Dan today is vice president of Open Systems Development and will be keynoting at the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit in just two weeks. He shares with us today some of the insights he has gained over the years and how they relate to the opportunity for Linux in the decade ahead.
You’re keynoting at the upcoming Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit and are a board member of the organization. How has the Collaboration Summit evolved over the last few years and what are you looking forward to at the event this year?
Frye: The collaboration summit has evolved along with Linux itself — Linux use continues to expand and the Collaboration Summit has broadened its scope to address this wider constituency. This event brings together active representatives from throughout the Linux ecosystem: leading users from a variety of industries, key Linux developers, system vendors, software/application vendors, and more. The Collaboration Summit has become my favorite annual business meeting. It is a refreshingly down-to-earth, yet effective, forum for that diverse set of communities to interact. What we learn at the Summit is often a driver of change in IBM priorities around our Linux technical strategy. The Linux technical leadership and the user community, in particular, can always be counted on at the Summit to provide us with cogent advice on what’s next and where we can help accelerate progress.
You will be talking about 10+ years of Linux at IBM. What has changed about Linux in a decade? What hasn’t?
Frye: Whoa. Everything has changed. Nothing is the same, with the possible exception of the “can do” philosophy of the global Linux development team. Everything has evolved – the technology, the market, customer adoption, the development process (yes, Linux community does have processes, even if they’re frequently loathe to admit it….). And all for the better. One of the most amazing things about the Linux market has been unbroken chain of success over the past decade – not once did the Linux pause or even briefly decline. The rise of the Internet ushered in the age of open standard computing with customers demanding freedom from relying upon any single, closed operating system provider. As a result, today, Linux is an unstoppable force in the industry, changing the economics of information technology, driving open standards in a way never before possible, and advancing customer innovation.
Secure, reliable, flexible Linux and open source software are rapidly complementing commercial software in customer engagements that include standards-based hardware platforms, software, and services. Additionally, open source technologies have spawned an ecosystem of developers building applications based on open architectures enabling IT systems to be truly interoperable.
We have seen tremendous momentum since IBM joined the Linux community over ten years ago. Linux has become the platform of choice for customers who value flexibility and portability in heterogeneous environments. Not only is Linux successful in x86 servers, it is often the right choice for other architectures, including RISC and mainframes. For example, IBM’s latest supercomputer partnership will use Linux to harness a huge number of IBM Power processors. These successes illustrate Linux’s flexibility and capability.
How has your advice to customers who are just starting to implement Linux in their enterprise environments changed from the year 2000 to the year 2010?
Frye: Today, we are confident in Linux being used throughout our clients’ enterprises. Back in 2000, Linux was mostly found at the edge of the IT infrastructure and we were careful to advise clients to utilize it appropriately. Today we advise our clients to use Linux confidently in the most demanding enterprise environments. Linux continues to be the world’s fastest growing operating system worldwide and is used across the entire IT infrastructure including in application and data serving, business critical workloads and as the foundation for emerging delivery models such as cloud computing. IBM estimates we have surpassed 15,000 Linux-related customer engagements worldwide in key industries like government, retail, health care and financial services. These engagements span both the traditional markets and the emerging global markets Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Over the past 10 years, Linux’s capabilities and the ecosystems around it have grown significantly to the point where we can work with clients on Linux deployments from the edge of the enterprise to the heart of it.
Can you tell us more about IBM’s smarter planet story and how Linux is enabling the future of smarter IT?
Frye: Linux plays a significant role in IBM’s smarter planet initiative. As the world becomes more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent, Linux will be a fundamental element of most cloud infrastructures in the future because of the same characteristics that have drawn customers to Linux over the last decade. The open nature of Linux and its ability to run on a wide variety of platforms is ideal for spanning an enterprise and virtualizing the aggregated computing resources. This capability makes it an ideal building block for a smarter planet.
IBM has been and will continue to be a leader in advancing the Linux ecosystem going forward, which is an important element of the smarter planet story. We will continue to support the ongoing development of the Linux kernel. With over 500 developers across the world actively contributing, we remain in the top 2-3 commercial vendors who support kernel refinement.
IBM recently announced its plans to go online with its commercial cloud service for software development and testing. How does Linux fit into this strategy?
Frye: We recently announced plans to go online with our commercial cloud service for software development and testing. We already deliver a test and development cloud and are now allowing enterprise and government clients to test and develop on an IBM Cloud. Following a successful beta program, IBM is working with partners in cloud management, cloud security, and software development and testing support to provide businesses with a unique mix of flexibility, scalability, enterprise-grade security and control for development and test on the IBM Cloud.
The new open cloud environment includes support for Linux — through Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell — and Java. Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud is powered by Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, the Red Hat branded and supported KVM offering. The enterprise cloud allows clients to work with their own images as well as images from IBM Mashup Center, Lotus Forms Turbo, WebSphere Portal Server, Lotus Web Content Management, and IBM Information Management and WebSphere brands that can be configured per their selection.
Where is the growth opportunity for Linux in 2010? Is it on the desktop? In the enterprise? With data-intensive workloads? What about the mid-market?
Frye: There are many growth opportunities as we continue to see Linux advance areas that are aligned to client needs. In the short term, this includes areas such as virtualization, server consolidation and cloud computing, data intensive work loads such as high performance computing, Linux on the desktop and in the midmarket where it can reduce complexity and cost. Today, Linux is excelling in areas that people didn’t even consider ten years ago and in products and services that didn’t exist 10 years ago such as powering smart phones.
We’re seeing a tremendous interest in Linux on the desktop. A recent global survey showed that Linux desktops were easier to implement than IT staff expected if they targeted the right groups of users, such as those who have moderate and predictable use of e-mail and office tools. IBM and Canonical have introduced a cloud- and Linux-based desktop package designed for use on low-cost netbooks such as Simmtronics Simmbook. The IBM Client for Smart Work helps organizations save up to 50 percent per seat on software costs versus a Microsoft-based desktop, in addition to avoiding requisite hardware upgrades.
Netbooks with Linux can provide low-cost computing to small businesses and emerging markets around the globe. CIO’s, IT directors and IT architects from all type of organizations — even those that typically cannot afford new, expensive personal computers — can now legitimately consider netbooks instead of PCs for business use.
Moving forward, a smarter planet framework will provide solutions to problems that we can’t even imagine yet. Linux, with its open and flexible nature, will continue to play an important role in helping to solve these problems.