The connected universe is here to stay and would be significantly leveraged by the growth in open standards, IBM senior vice president Steve Mills told the hundreds of delegates in his keynote address at its technical developer conference -- Solutions -- which drew 3,000 attendees from 53 countries.
In his talk, titled "Building the Next Generation of E-Business," Mills said there would be a far more processed-base use of information technology going forward as businesses continue to demand a more dynamic model and a more horizontal approach.
Businesses are trying to leverage information to get process integration. Key to this is open standards, allowing seamless connectivity across platforms and devices, Mills said. The future lay in those things that are interconnected and highly federated, with e-business leading that trend.
"Customers around the world are spending money on e-business, and the latest estimates are that businesses will spend $1.3tn to enable their business environments this year," he said.
All this interoperability and heterogeneity is made possible through open standards, which will be incorporated into all IBM solutions being delivered going forward. "Standards are critical and continue to emerge. The drive to XML, the extension of HTML, open source, Linux all provide an enormous amount of leverage and make the vision of a dynamic e-business possible," Mills said.
Web services being driven by XML is one of the most fundamental shifts taking place. XML allows businesses to transact with one another in a free-flow way and empowers companies to move forward with their legacy applications, he said. The bulk of IBM's $13bn software business is geared toward providing this capability and enabling this environment, and its applications are all modular and "mixed and matched," according to Mills.
"The IT landscape of today is going to become ever more diverse. This is an era of tremendous opportunity," Mills concluded.
IBM's vice president of technology and strategy, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, took the stage after Mills to talk about Big Blue's Linux strategy. The company has embraced Linux and open source because it believes these are critical foundations for the IT base of the future, he said.
"The implications of the huge advances in technology is astounding," Wladawsky-Berger said. "The infrastructure absorbing this technology is also growing by leaps and bounds. This is both exciting and scary, resulting in some huge challenges, like how to manage all this. That's why we launched Project Eliza, and the self-management processes that brings." But the challenge of integrating all this in the most flexible manner has to be addressed. The answer is to base all the parts and layers on open standards. "It is critical that all the software and products we build are based on open standards. But that's not enough -- we need to support open-source software," Wladawsky-Berger said.
A layer of integration with protocols and ways for those protocols to share information with one another are very important and need to be written down as a protocol layer. "We need to keep advancing this protocol layer as a driver of open-source software. And, as these move forward, the communities supporting and developing these will grow," he said.
That does not mean that all software has to be open source. "The better we advance, the better integration happens, the better we can build proprietary applications on top of this," Wladawsky-Berger said. "Take WebSphere, which is based on Apache and incorporates other open-source technologies. We included those open-source pieces necessary for integration and then developed proprietary aspects on top of that."
Linux is the fastest-growing operating system by far, according to statistics from International Data Corp., he said, and is now one of the two major platforms along with Windows.
"We are embracing Linux across everything we do," Wladawsky-Berger said. "It is the only operating system that will run on architectures not yet invented -- there is no other operating system you can say this about. It is permeating just about everything we do.
"Our customers are primarily using Linux for work consolidation, clusters, distributed enterprise and in appliances. They like its cost effectiveness, reliability and the way it facilitates easy interoperation," he said.
Applications are critical, as the size of the portfolio of applications indicates the maturity of an operating system. While Linux has a way to go in the enterprise space, it is making huge inroads and will continue to play a strong role going forward, he concluded.
The head of Linux International, Jon Hall, ended the keynote sessions by talking up Linux and taking several shots at Microsoft. There are currently 450 million licences of Microsoft's desktop software, giving it control of some 90 percent of the desktop market, he said.
"While all software has bugs, users need fixes for those right away so they can move forward, something open source provides and Microsoft does not," Hall said. "We need a flexible, modular, stable and low-cost operating system across all devices. Does Microsoft offer that?"
So what is Linux? Linux is both open-source and commercial applications, Hall said. It is a multi-operating system: multiuser, multitask, multi-CPU and multi-architecture. It also has many different file systems, allowing it to be interoperable with other systems -- something Windows is not, he concluded.
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