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IBM Bets Another Billion on Linux
IBM Bets Another Billion on Linux

By Jennifer LeClaire
September 17, 2013 12:02PM

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If the new investment in Linux IBM made at LinuxCon 2013 triggers a boost in Power Systems sales analogous to what the 2000 Linux investment did for IBM's mainframe systems, it would also effectively shut the door to Microsoft in many lucrative, high-end markets, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
 


Big Blue made another billion-dollar announcement on Tuesday. At LinuxCon 2013, IBM pledged to invest $1 billion in new Linux and open-source technologies for its Power Systems servers.

The goal: to help clients capitalize on big data and cloud computing with modern systems built to handle the new wave of applications coming to the data center in the post-PC era.

"Many companies are struggling to manage big data and cloud computing using commodity servers based on decades-old, PC era technology," said IBM Fellow and vice president of Power Development Brad McCredie. "These servers are quickly overrun by data which triggers the purchase of more servers, creating un-sustainable server sprawl. The era of big data calls for a new approach to IT systems; one that is open, customizable, and designed from the ground up to handle big data and cloud workloads."

Another Flurry of Innovation?

IBM announced a new Power Systems Linux Center in Montpellier, France, a hub where software developers can build and deploy new applications for Big Data, cloud, mobile and social business computing on open technology building blocks using Linux and the latest IBM POWER7+ processor technology. The first center opened in Beijing in May. Additional centers are located in New York City and Austin, Texas.

And to serve the growing number of developers, business partners and clients interested in running Linux on Power Systems, IBM is expanding its Power Systems cloud for development. The no-charge cloud service is ramping up its infrastructure to provide more businesses the ability to prototype, build, port, and test Linux applications on the Power platform as well as applications built for AIX and IBM i.

"The last time IBM committed $1 billion to Linux, it helped start a flurry of innovation that has never slowed. IBM's continued investments in Linux for Power Systems is welcomed by the Linux community," said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. "We look forward to seeing how the Power platform can bring about further innovation on Linux, and how companies and developers can work together to get the most out of this open architecture."

Big Blue Has a New Angle

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told us the $1 billion investment obviously resonates with the $1 billion Linux investment IBM made in 2000. But now that the situation is completely different than it was then, he believes Big Blue's new investment is more tactical.

"That's partly because Linux today is deeply in the IT mainstream, and a known entity that is core to the operations in thousands of data centers," he said. "That's especially the case in hyperscale cloud computing infrastructures like those owned by Google and Facebook."

As King sees it, IBM's strategic investment in Linux helped make that reality possible but the effort also delivered profound tactical value and financial benefits to the company, especially its mainframe division. IBM's Power Systems are particularly well suited to the cloud and big data applications, he said, and this new Linux investment should also help bolster the market presence of Power solutions.

Should Microsoft Be Worried?

"I doubt Microsoft is directly concerned about this effort but it does underscore one of the company's biggest problems -- that despite the commercial market leadership position of Windows Server, its presence in cloud and hyperscale data centers outside Microsoft's own Azure is miniscule," King said. "Plus, if IBM's new investment triggers a boost in Power Systems sales analogous to what the 2000 Linux investment did for IBM's mainframe systems, it would also effectively shut the door to Microsoft in many lucrative, high-end markets."
 

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