OK, who got IBM's billion dollars for Linux?

OK, who got IBM's billion dollars for Linux?

Summary: That's 250 people, many of them presumably experienced kernel level Unix developers, working on thekernel for over three years now. Sounds impressive, but what have they been doing? Has anyone seenresults remotely commensurate with that level of effort?

Away back in December of 2000, IBM's Lou Gerstner announced that IBM planned to spend a billion dollars on Linux. Great news then, but where did it go? There's no IBM Linux distribution, and not many of their nickels went to the people behind the key technologies IBM relies on to make Linux work including Apache, mySQL, OpenOffice, and SAMBA. Their web sites offer Red Hat Linux for $799 or more, but I don't see the new Fedora Foundation getting any part of that billion bucks.

It's not going to hardware either: their hurricane chipset is designed for Windows on Xeon, not Linux. Instead, it's Sun, not IBM, that's about to release a wave of AMD based products using a chipset and board design specifically tailored to boost Linux (and Solaris x86) throughput.

So, where did the money go? Consider this from an interview Robert McMillan did with IBM's Jim Stallings just after the latter became responsible for IBM's Linux initiative in April of 2003:


I'd like to ask you a few things about IBM's Linux Technology Center. You have about 250 people working there. Can you tell me exactly what they're doing with their time? Are they helping customers or developing the kernel, or doing other work?

Stallings: They're making contributions. Their full time job is making contributions to the kernel. That's it. They don't have another job sweeping the floor or working on WebSphere or anything like that. Another way to look at it is, IBM is making a real physical contribution to the open source community, both in terms of what we're doing with our products, but also what we're doing with the kernel. And these people are the ones who work on the kernel full time.

That's 250 people, many of them presumably experienced kernel level Unix developers, working on the kernel for over three years now. Sounds impressive, but what have they been doing? Has anyone seen results remotely commensurate with that level of effort?

Then too, 250 people, full time, seems like a big number, but actually only accounts for about 30 million a year -- leaving almost $900 million unaccounted for.

So where did it go? Is it under a mattress somewhere or did you get it? I know I didn't.

Topic: Operating Systems

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • the lawyers

    they always do.
  • It's slippery, but...

    the compensation of all of the people working on something Linux related on behalf of IBM are probably included. This includes software development, customer support, posting $799 Red Hat on a web site, etc...
    • Yes, but those aren't open source activities

      You're quite right, of course, that billion went mostly to internal resources whose activities might have had something to do with selling IBM's Linux services, but didn't do any open source developer (or application) a nickel's worth of good.

      Take a look at Dana's post (above mine today) and you'll see another facet of the same concern: in this case with respect to the basic business model. He's right, there's a marketing component to the problem -but I think much of that reflects the reality that the GPL practically invites the unscruplous to take advantage of work offered freely by others - often without contributing much - if anything - of value back to the developers.
      • I'll leave that to the lawyers, as another poster stated,

        who probably got some of this billion. They would argue that anything done by IBM on behalf of Linux "trickles down", as Ronald Reagan would say, to the developers. That said, I'm on your side. This investment trickled down about as much as the benefits of Reagan's tax breaks to big corpses trickled down to us little people.
      • Murph?

        [i]I think much of that reflects the reality that the GPL practically invites the unscruplous to take advantage of work offered freely by others - often without contributing much - if anything - of value back to the developers.[/i]

        Sort of a strange comment from a supporter of the CDDL, since that is stacked even more so towards community developers getting nothing back for their work.

        Keep in mind that from an economic point of view, it's not necessary for an activity to generate enormous returns as long as it pays better than opportunity cost.

        The commercial market for large categories of software has vanished but the private need hasn't, so the work on the software continues. The marginal cost of contributing those private efforts to a GPL project is negligible and there never was any prospect of sale. In contrast, there are distinct (however modest) benefits to publication, so GPL contiues to draw contributions.
        Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Here's where more of the money went.

    Quoted from a [i]Forbes[/i] article from May, 2004 (or was is '03?):

    [i]How is it that for eight months a team of up to a dozen IBM consultants has been toiling in the data centers and computer rooms of the Munich city government--free of charge? Having goaded Munich into embracing open-source software, IBM is helping it plan a migration of 14,000 computers off Microsoft Windows and onto the operating system known as Linux. Never mind that IBM doesn't sell Linux, which is distributed free. And never mind that Munich officials say they're not committed to buying IBM hardware or consulting services, despite all IBM's free help.

    Though IBM did not invent Linux, does not distribute it and earns nary a penny on it, the computer giant (2003 sales: $89 billion) is spending billions in a crusade to make Linux the world's most popular operating system. All told, more than 12,000 IBMers today devote at least part of their time to Linux. IBM has invested millions in two leading Linux distributors, Red Hat and SuSe. It has spent millions more to cofound and fund the nonprofit organization that oversees Linux development. In developing nations IBM has opened 20 Linux training centers, where it schmoozes government ministers and explains how Linux can create jobs for the young.


    Back then Linux lacked features that corporate customers need, like strong security and support for computers with multiple microprocessors. So IBM has created 45 Linux tech centers in 12 countries, where programmers crank out Linux code. These are not the hippie hackers who created the early versions of Linux. They are experienced engineers with backgrounds designing IBM's own operating systems, including AIX, its version of the Unix operating system.

    IBM also has built close ties to the two leading Linux distributors, Red Hat and SuSe. IBM was an early investor in Red Hat, and last year it invested $50 million in Novell, which acquired SuSe, Red Hat's chief rival. Smart move: By supporting two distributors, IBM can keep either one from becoming the next Microsoft.[/i]

    * * * * * *

    Here's some stuff from a PDF document available at IBM's Website:

    [i]IBM has the largest Linux development team (in a commercial organization) in the world.
    * IBM's Linux Technology Center with over 600 developers in 40 countries around the world...[/i]

    I thought at one time I had seen a list on their site of about 30-35 major open source Linux-oriented projects that IBM was contributing code to, but I can't find such a list now. However, you can get a sense of some of the stuff they are involved in by poking around here:


    They may be engaging in hyperbole with the billion-dollar claim, but I'll wager it's not hyperbole by a very wide margin, when you take into account the larger (and largely unpublicized) picture.
  • Clearly the author didn't do ANY research.

    All this information comes from IBM's web site. It took me all of 5 minutes to find it all.

    # Linux on eServer (xSeries, pSeries, iSeries)
    # Linux on Mainframes
    # Linux on personal systems
    # Linux on POWER
    # Linux on TotalStorage
    # Linux on workstations
    # Linux IRES POS Systems

    # DB2 for Linux
    # DB2 Content Manager
    # WebSphere Information Integrator
    # DB2 Connect
    # DB2 Universal Database Data Warehouse Editions
    # DB2 Integrated Cluster Environment (DB2 ICE) for # IBM Informix for Linux
    # Lotus Domino
    # Lotus Workplace
    # Lotus Workplace Messaging 2.0
    # IBM Rational Requisite Pro
    # IBM Rational Software Architect
    # IBM Rational Software Modeler
    # IBM Rational Web Developer for WebSphere
    # IBM Rational Application Developer for WebSphere
    # The Rational Rose Technical Developer
    # IBM Rational Test RealTime offers run-time
    # IBM Rational PurifyPlus provides run-time
    # IBM Rational Manual Tester
    # IBM Rational Functional Tester
    # IBM Rational Performance Tester
    # IBM Rational ClearCase
    # Tivoli Access Manager for e-business
    # IBM Tivoli Risk Manager
    # Tivoli Storage Manager
    # Tivoli Monitoring
    # Tivoli Configuration Manager
    # Tivoli System Automation for Multiplatforms
    # Tivoli Enterprise Console
    # WebSphere Application Server
    # WebSphere Commerce
    # WebSphere Studio
    # WebSphere MQ for Linux
    # WebSphere Portal
    # WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation

    # Installation Services
    # Migration Services
    # Support Line
    # Technology Assessment and Consulting Services
    # Linux strategy workshop
    # Virtual Hosting
    # Training

    Open Source Projects IBM is involved in:
    (Actually, there are 162 separate open source projects listed on IBM's site http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/views/opensource/projects.jsp, this is just the subset of ones that have "Linux" in the name or description, note that this excludes Eclipse which is arguably one of the premier open source projects, and is entirely the result of IBM investment):

    # Abstract Machine Test Utility for Linux Common Criteria Certificate
    # AIX Toolbox for Linux Applications
    # ATM on Linux
    # Carrier Grade Linux with OSDL
    # Channel Bonding for Linux
    # CIFS for Linux
    # Data Center Linux with OSDL
    # High Availability Linux (Linux-HA)
    # Linux Diagnostics Tools
    # Linux Kernel
    # Linux Kernel Crash Dumps
    # Linux on zSeries
    # Linux orinoco wireless NIC driver
    # Linux RAID
    # Linux Security Modules
    # Linux Standard Base
    # Linux Test Project
    # LTC Linux Kernel Performance
    # Mobile IPv6 for Linux
    # OS/2 to Linux Porting Package
    # PCI Hotplug for Linux
    # Standards Based Linux Instrumentaion for Manageability
    # Class-based Kernel Resource Management (CKRM)
    # CProf
    # Crypto Interface Library
    # Device Mapper
    # Enterprise Class Event Logging
    # GNU C Library (Glibc)
    # IBM PKCS#11 API (openCryptoki)
    # Infiniband
    # iSCSI
    # Journaled File System (JFS)
    # Kernel Debugger (KDB)
    # libsysfs
    # Memory Expansion Technology
    # Memory Hotplug
    # Native POSIX Thread Library
    # NFS
    # Oprofile
    # Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA)
    # Stream Control Transmission Protocol (SCTP)
    # UniverSAl playGround for Ipv6 (USAGI)
    # USB support for Linux
    • More on hardware

      IBM also sells the following hardware specifically to run Linux faster and more reliably than any other Linux vendor out there, including SCO's friend, Sun.

      OpenPower (POWER5 systems, based on the fastest CPUs you can buy today):

      zSeries 800 (a mainframe system designed and built specifically to run Linux on the most reliable hardware made by any company anywhere):

      Cluster 1350 currently the fastest computer in the WORLD is an IBM cluster, the Blue Gene/L, what did you think the "/L" stands for?).
    • Contributions vs. exploitation

      It's a nice long list -and not even complete since there are also Linux specific services. However, I didn't ask whether IBM exploits Linux, I asked where they contribute to it.
      • Semantics.

        If both sides derive actual benefit from the transaction, then neither side is being "exploited".
      • Did you even read my post?

        Apparently not, because I listed IBM's various Linux services? It's right there between the 162 open source projects IBM contributes to and the couple of dozen commercial software offerings IBM sells for Linux.

        Assumig you DID read my post, what part of "162 open source projects" do you not understand, exactly? Show me a single company that has given as much as IBM. Aside from, perhaps, OpenOffice, has there ever been a project as important as Eclipse released as Open Source? From zero to #1 Java IDE in no time, and now Linux Java developers are on an equal footing with their Windows counterparts. That is ONE example of dozens. IBM has also made huge contributions to the Linux kernel in almost every aspect, from the first journalled file system to SMP support, RAID and the now fully automated Linux test project. And what did IBM get for it, a rediculous harassment lawsuit from SCO, co-incidentally funded by your buddy Sun and heir partner Microsoft.

        Need more? What other company not only paid for a port of Linux to their hardware, but also built hardware SPECIFICALLY to take advantage of that port? IBM did it, twice (zSeries and pSeries/OpenPower). And now, with the new Cell architecture, IBM is again building a new architecture with Linux playing a central role to its future (since you are so bad at research, here's a link for you: http://www.linuxtag.org/typo3site/freecongress-details.html?talkid=156).

        Please spare us all the whine about IBM being an 'exploiter' rather than a contributor. First you either ignore or completely miss the facts and now you are covering up your mistake with an argument over semantics. Admit your error, apologize to IBM, and move on. It would be a lot better for your credibility if you did it now rather than later.
      • Left hand... meet right hand

        You really should read ZDNet more often. You might notice that IBM gave Cloudscape to open source...

        They've also contributed JFS and NUMA to the linux kernel, which is part of SCOX's lawsuit... so yes, spending money on lawyers is a legitimate open-source expense for IBM.

        Their developers have also made lots of other contibutions to the linux kernel. Don't take my word for it. SCOX will stand up as a character witness for IBM to tell you how much IBM has contributed to linux<g>.
        Knorthern Knight
  • Does it matter?

    Even if IBM has not yet spend a billion on Linux they still have contributed more than most companies even think about contributing.

    Trying to make them look like a bad guy is wrong.