What IBM learned from Linux, open source

Bob Sutor is IBM's go-to guy for open source and standards, and is therefore a perfect person to answer the question, "What has IBM learned from Linux?"

IBM trumpets open standards so much that it's easy to forget the company cares deeply about open source, too. I much prefer this latter emphasis, incidentally, because IBM is so good at playing the "open" standards game - it's much harder to game an open-source license.

Which is why I found this interview with Bob Sutor refreshing. Bob is IBM's vice president of Open Source and Standards, and does great work for Big Blue. When asked what IBM has learned from its Linux experience, he responded:

It taught us how to better collaborate with others who don't work for IBM; it demonstrated that business models can evolve; it showed us that a good intellectual property strategy balances both "open" and "closed"; and it taught us that software that grew up in a non-corporate setting can be excellent, wildly successful, and meet customer needs. Linux, along with other open source software and open standards, showed us that being flexible in our thinking and business models is lower risk than adamantly clinging to past practices that might have worked once but now aren't solely what customers really need.

Well put. While I might quibble with one or two things in Bob's comment, it's clear that IBM is one of the savviest companies on the planet when it comes to open source, in part because it has been involved deeply in open source for a very long time. Experience matters a heck of a lot in open source.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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