IBM and Linux: The next billion dollars

IBM and Linux: The next billion dollars

Summary: IBM is renovating its Power computers by investing a billion dollars into making it a full-fledged Linux line for Big Data, cloud, data analytics, and the datacenter.


On September 17, IBM will announce at LinuxCon 2013 that it will invest $1 billion in new Linux and open-source technologies for its Power Systems servers. This announcement comes 12 years after IBM famously announced that it was backing the then unproven Linux with a billion-dollar investment.

IBM puts a billion-dollar bet on Linux on the Power platform.
(Image: IBM)

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, said, "The last time IBM committed $1 billion to Linux, it helped start a flurry of innovation that has never slowed. 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 has been moving towards making Linux more important on its flagship Unix/AIX Power Systems over the last year. In May 2012, IBM introduced its first Linux-only Power Systems, the Power 7 rack and blade servers. Then, this year, IBM introduced a new high-end Power Linux system, 7R4 server. This was quickly followed by IBM porting Linux's native virtualization, KVM, to Power and IBM, Google, and Nvidia founding the OpenPower Consortium to open up the Power chip family to other vendors.

What IBM wants for all these moves, and the $1 billion it will be investing in Power and Linux, is not to convert its existing AIX customers to Linux. Instead, Dan Frye, IBM's VP of Open Systems Development, said Linux on Power is meant for new big data, cloud computing, analytics, and datacenter customers.

IBM also believes that Linux on Power will be more affordable for datacenter customers. Lisa Orr Johnston, IBM's VP of Worldwide Marketing, said, "One Power processor can replace 10 Intel CPUs." This, in turn, will drastically reduce datacenter power and cooling costs.

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

What this means in the short term is that IBM is setting up a new Power Systems Linux Center in Montpellier, France, and setting up a Linux on Power development cloud. This cloud is meant to serve the growing number of developers, partners, and clients that are interested in running Linux on Power Systems. This free cloud service is ramping up its infrastructure to provide more businesses with the ability to prototype, build, port, and test Linux applications on the Power platform as well as AIX applications.

That sounds good, but is IBM serious about adding Linux as more than just an SKU on its Power line? Frye said that yes, IBM is quite serious about making Linux a real alternative on Power for its customers. Frye added that Doug Balog, IBM's new general manager for Power Systems, will be pushing Linux hard on the Power architecture.

At the same time, Frye added, AIX won't be going anywhere. "AIX remains in place. The AIX customer base is loyal and it continue to sell, so the AIX sales, technical support, and marketing team will be staying in place."

Related stories:

Topics: Data Centers, Big Data, Cloud, Hardware, IBM, Linux

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  • Linux on power is a great plaftorm

    for CPU agnostic workloads like DB work. Its overpriced and doesn't make sense for small to midsized companies unless they have legacy AIX needs otherwise Lintel is king.
    • Linux is the only option

      If you want a mature OS that doesn't contain an NSA backdoor!
  • IBM and Linux: The next billion dollars

    Ya think just maybe Linux is more than a 1% factor in the IT world?
    Over and Out
    • No, 1% is barely what Microsoft

      can brag about with 500 fastest supercomputers.
      • Linux-marketshare of new devices: 61%

        1. Android Linux 61%
        2. Apple 15%
        3. Windows 15%
        4. Others, including other Linux distributions 9%

        marketshare of new devices of Q2 2013.

        No doubt - Linux has already won the war of OS.
        Napoleon XIV
        • Napoleon XIV: "Linux has already won the war of OS"

          Did you read the article?

          "... AIX won't be going anywhere. "AIX remains in place. The AIX customer base is loyal and it continue[s] to sell, so the AIX sales, technical support, and marketing team will be staying in place."
          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • the OS war is not waged against AIX

            the Unix brethren will be spared if they behave, (so this doesn't apply to what Apple is making). Linux is merciful ;)
        • Android is NOT Linux ... it is merely a derivative of Linux ...

          ... with none of the capabilities which make Linux a great OS for high-performance computing.
          M Wagner
    • 1% of the world's desktops does not translate into 1% of the world's ...

      ... supercomputers! Linux is the king of supercomputing ... as it should be!
      M Wagner
  • It is funny and rewarding to see

    IBM distancing themselves form the "decades old PC-era technology".

    Smart guys!
    • Funny

      Didn't your master, Apple, somewhat recently switch it's Mac OS X line from PowerPC to Intel?

      And according to Wikipedia, PowerPC was created in 1991 and "newer chips in the POWER series implement the full PowerPC instruction set":

      Wouldn't that make Power decades old too?
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • They did that years ago...

      It is called Lenovo now. The entire PC section was sold.

      Along with it any contracts with Microsoft... So they don't have to deal with them anymore.
  • Wise you...

    Wise you that the main supplier of machines linux in the world it is Hewlett Packard?
    luis river
  • Great precursor to IBM getting involved with commercial Linux for desktops

    Sooner or later, this development will have as corollary, a need for desktops. I've been waiting for IBM to really get into the desktop commercial version of Linux. They can partner with HP, even Dell. This is an important trend, especially since so much of the world outside the US is moving to Linux on the desktop be it in government, the consumer, or larger enterprises.

    This was Microsoft's game to lose, and they lost. Had they instead listened to the customer, had they instead made the OS successively more intuitive and easier to use rather than the reverse, this move to Linux would not be occurring.

    Funny how history goes full-circle.
    • IBM will never get back into the desktop PC business ...

      ... because there is not enough profit in the PC business for IBM to support their business model. That is why IBM sold off their desktop PC business in the late 80's/early 90's - and when the notebook business became commoditized, sold off the rest to Lenovo.

      This is the same reason that traditional Linux vendors are not pouring money into desktop Linux. Dollar for dollar, there is a lot more money to be made in large scale Linux computing than in desktop Linux.

      Only Linux fan-boys give a damn about desktop Linux.
      M Wagner
  • What makes linux so "immune" to malware?

    Please provide a technical explanation without any bias. TIA.
    • It is relatively simple...

      1. A simple kernel/user mode interface (most important IMO).
      2. Adherence to standards maintains backward compatibility without adding more security problems.
      3. A clear separation of administrator/user functions
      4. Implementation of basic operating procedures (though some user interface idiots seem to be trying to break that)

      A "keep it simple" philosophy (though again, some UI idiots keep trying to break that).
    • Linux is NOT immune ... but malicious people will not waste their time ...

      ... targeting such a small number of desktops compared to the number of Windows desktops. High-performance Linux computing takes place in secure machine rooms with actively-managed firewalls and virtually no personal information - which thieves are looking for to sell.
      M Wagner
  • I cant wait for IBM to come out with a desktop version

    Their new architecture may be risk based and that is why it is so fast. Just what I need for my desktop. I could call it the PC2, with 3 terrabytes or disk storage, 16 gigs of memory, and all the bells and whistles that we expect from such a system. And of course, an IBM graphics card as well. No, I don't think I would run TOKEN RING at home.
  • MS Windows Phone & Windows 8 = Junks

    We are on Linux and Android and never choose MS of any kind again. BTW, like its Vista, MS charging $128 on its newly Windows 8.1. Smart people never learn from their past mistakes