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IBM's Palmisano touts Linux at confab

President Sam Palmisano kicks off the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo with a slew of hardware and software announcements supporting the open-source operating system.

Mary Jo Foley
Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network.
Mary Jo Foley
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IBM chief courts Linux faithful
Sam Palmisano, CEO, IBM
NEW YORK--IBM President Sam Palmisano kicked off the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo on Wednesday morning with a slew of hardware and software announcements supporting the open-source operating system.

On IBM's docket are a new 64-processor IBM server that can run existing Linux applications unchanged, courtesy of some new IBM middleware; a Linux-based workstation using Intel's high-end IA-64 processors; and Linux versions of IBM Domino Workflow and Tivoli systems management software.

Palmisano highlighted the developments in his opening keynote address at the trade show, which is being held in New York this week.

Palmisano emphasized that IBM is banking on Linux being ready for "real business." He said that 2001 will be "the year Linux grows up in the enterprise."

Palmisano spent much of his talk attempting to debunk what he called the "four myths of Linux"--Linux can't scale, it's only a niche play, the operating system isn't ready to handle mission-critical demands, and it's a "bathtub" of source code with little rhyme or reason behind it.

To refute those notions, Palmisano cited a number of recent IBM Linux customer wins. Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Systems will install Linux on an IBM eServer zSeries server to manage e-mail databases for its customers by running hundreds of Linux partitions.

"We don't invest a billion dollars casually," Palmisano told the audience. "Lou (Gerstner) and I don't write those checks without some...scrutiny."

During the past year, all of IBM's hardware, software and services divisions have made Linux a top priority. IBM has announced plans to translate all of its application and infrastructure software to Linux and has made Linux one of the operating systems available on most IBM hardware, ranging from its NetVista thin clients to its S/390 mainframes.

IBM said it plans to spend more than $300 million, or one-third of the company's $1 billion Linux commitment--on Linux services. IBM CEO Lou Gerstner announced IBM's $1 billion Linux commitment last month.

The Linux services budget will be spent on building up over the next three years, "e-business enablement and migration," open-source consulting; and Web and high-availability cluster services.

As part of its services push, IBM said it will broaden its service relationships with SuSE, one of the four major Linux distributors. IBM already has service agreements in place with Red Hat and Linuxcare, which is in the process of merging with TurboLinux.

On the hardware side, IBM's Linux plans include the 64-processor eServer x430, which IBM is touting as the first server to run middleware called the Linux Application Environment (LAE). LAE sits on top of the Dynix Unix-like operating system, which powers the IBM server.

IBM has opened a Linux Competency Center in Beaverton, Ore., where Linux software writers can test their applications on LAE.

The LAE layer is designed to allow existing 32-bit Intel-based Linux applications to run without being recompiled on the new 64-processor servers. To take full advantage of the 64-processor functionality, however, customers will need to redesign their applications or write new ones from scratch, IBM executives acknowledged.

IBM also unveiled plans to ship this summer IA-64-based Intellistation Z Pro workstations that will run one or more Linux flavors.

Palmisano discussed new IBM Linux-based development tools and services that target the IBM PowerNP network processor, a chip embedded in routers and other communications equipment.

And he took some thinly veiled potshots at rivals Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, neither of which has been much of a Linux or open-source backer.

"Change--some are excited about it; some are really threatened about it," Palmisano told the LinuxWorld Expo audience. "This (Linux) is certainly a disruptive technology we'll be working with for many, many years to come."

Palmisano closed by addressing the Linux audience directly. "You are the community that will get this done," he said. "But we need to work together."