IBM: 18 months until Linux break-through

IBM is picking it will be 12 to 18 months before momentum builds for widespread deployment of Linux on the desktop.

IBM is picking it will be 12 to 18 months before momentum builds for widespread deployment of Linux on the desktop.

That’s the guess of Big Blue’s head of Linux strategy and market development, Karen Smith, in an interview with Computerworld at IBM’s Developerworks Live! conference in San Francisco a fortnight ago. The focus of the event, which rolled together IBM’s Solutions, Websphere and Lotus DevCon developer conferences, was on Linux, Java, open standards and integration.

Given Smith’s pick of when Linux might begin to become mainstream, a Notes client for the open source OS is not imminent. IBM’s Linux focus continues to be on servers, where Smith says the bulk of revenue returning from the company’s much-vaunted $US1 billion Linux investment is coming from. She gives an unqualified yes to the question of whether IBM remains committed to its Linux outlay.

While the bulk of its Linux revenue is coming from hardware sales — including a surprising amount from customers running Linux on mainframes — Smith says the revenue mix is changing. IBM is starting to see more software and services revenue in the Linux area. Smith expects the trend to continue as IBM focuses on Linux-based platforms for small and medium-sized organisations as the low cost of Linux-based solutions makes it an ideal platform for these firms’ application developers.

IBM has introduced products such as the e-Server Integrated Platform for e-business (a prepackaged Linux-based server for developing e-business applications), and services such as the StartNow programme that focus on attracting and supporting independent software vendors (ISVs) by offering marketing, sales and technical support.

Along with the focus on Linux and Linux-based software, the conference also focused on Java server technology and specifically on WebSphere — IBM’s J2EE application server. IBM launched version 5.0 of WebSphere at Developerworks, and was strongly hyping J2EE technology and web services as the foundations of next-generation computing.

The company’s head of technology and strategy, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, sees J2EE, web services and other emerging open standards as being the technology that will enable “grid computing” — utilising hardware and software resources across multiple platforms transparently to achieve massively high performance, or to provide much greater applications flexibility.

As for Lotus, the strategy, dubbed Nextgen, is to “unbundle” the Lotus suite of products and provide web services access to the functionality that they provide. This, says Lotus head Al Zollar, will not happen overnight, and Lotus will produce at least one more major release of Domino after the version 6.0 release due in Q3 this year. Asked about speculation that Lotus is to dump Domino’s .nsf file structure in favour of using IBM’s DB2 database, Zollar says that if DB2 becomes integrated into Domino it is likely that both formats will co-exist during the transition.

Evans is online business manager at Computerworld’s publisher IDG. He attended Developerworks Live! in San Francisco courtesy of IBM.

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