HelpSystems Blog

Why is IBM Pushing Linux?

At LinuxCon 2013 that took place this past September, IBM announced it was investing $1 billion in new open-source and Linux technologies to complement its Power Systems servers. As ZDNet contributor Steven Vaughan-Nichols noted, IBM made a similar announcement about 12 years ago that it was investing in Linux, which was rather risky at the time as the technology had yet to prove its value.

In short, Linux is an open-source operating system, based on the idea that open collaboration leads to innovation and growth. There are many reasons driving IBM's latest large-scale investment in the technology.

"The last time IBM committed $1 billion to Linux, it helped start a flurry of innovation that has never slowed," said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, ZDNet reported. "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."

IBM Motivations

According to Vaughan-Nichols, IBM has been focusing on its chief offerings, UNIX/AIX Power Systems, working for the last year to make Linux a more important element. A major step toward this goal occurred in May 2012 when IBM launched its Linux-only Power Systems, the POWER7 rack and blade servers. Dan Frye, IBM VP of Open Systems Development, noted that rather than expecting its $1 billion investment to lead to the conversion of AIX customers to Linux, the company is working to ensure that leveraging Linux on Power Systems will foster new customers in the areas of cloud computing, analytics, data centers, and big data.

"Many companies are struggling to manage big data and cloud computing using commodity servers based on decades-old, PC-era technology," said Brad McCredie, IBM fellow and VP of Power Development. "These servers are quickly overrun by data, which triggers the purchase of more servers, creating unsustainable 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."

PCWorld reported that while IBM has not specified exactly how it will invest in Linux, the company did note that the money would be applied to the further development of Linux by clients, students, and developers. IBM also anticipates code contributions in the OpenStack application as well as others like it.

Ultimately, IBM benefits from more Linux applications as they hope to host more of these applications on POWER7 Servers. IBM i customers also benefit from growth in this market. As IBM improves Power Technology, it impacts what's available for IBM i, technology like SAN, SSD, and virtualization, for example.