IBM says Linux lifting mainframe sales

Rich Michos, who was in New Zealand last week to evangelise at Computerworld Expo in Auckland, has no illusions as to why IBM is investing $1US billion on Linux. 'It's enabling us to sell additional hardware, software and services,' he says.

Linux on mainframes? Linux on handhelds? Linux on watches? Enter the world of IBM Linux maven Rich Michos.

Michos, who was in New Zealand last week to evangelise at Computerworld Expo in Auckland, has no illusions as to why IBM is investing $1US billion on Linux. “It’s enabling us to sell additional hardware, software and services,” he says.

And don’t think he’s talking about firewall, file and print and web servers (traditional Linux fare). It’s middleware, mainframes and server clusters IBM has in mind when it comes to Linux strategy.

The company has formed a Linux technology centre where a couple of hundred programmers are tweaking the Linux kernel so the operating system can scale to an enterprise level. Meanwhile, it has been Linux-enabling its entire server line (from mainframe down) and middleware products such as DB2, CICS, MQSeries, Notes, Tivoli and Websphere.

New York-based Michos, whose official title is Linux sales head, is especially bullish on Linux clusters and virtual clustering on mainframes. IBM sees its mainframe shipments (in terms of mips) growing on the back of its Linux involvement.

“We’ve had many customers deploy Linux on the mainframe. They finding it’s easy to move the application over — they just recompile. One feature of the mainframe is the ability to set up partitions or virtual instances called ‘servers’. Management costs go down because in literally 90 seconds you can add an additional server. We’re selling them to petroleum firms [Shell has a 1024-way cluster], government departments and academia.”

Linux distribution companies Red Hat, Caldera and SuSE provide mainframe versions of the operating system but Michos admitsthere is a lack of Linux-based enterprise applications. However, he says hardware vendors and the customers are pushing independent software developers to ship Linux versions of their products.

Distributed computing — applications such as POS (point of sale) systems, kiosks or remote offices — is another area where Linux could be strong, Michos believes.

For example, the Tivo personal video recorder runs on Linux, he says, “and it’s popping up in all sorts of applications — there’s even a wristwatch [a couple of which could be seen at Expo].”

IBM claims four major Linux sites in New Zealand. Three in Wellington — which it will not name — and Auckland University, which runs a Linux cluster.

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