IBM refines its Linux message for developers

IBM executives placed Linux at the core of their strategy for dealing with what seems to be the next generation of computing.

LAS VEGAS -- IBM executives today described a technical revolution in IT akin to the steam engine or electricity, and they placed Linux at the core of their strategy for dealing with what's seen as the next generation of computing.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's vice president of technology and strategy, told developers gathered here at the company's Solutions 2000 conference that the changes in IT are more profound than just the next stage after client/server computing.

"As we all know, the last several years in the world of information technology have truly felt like an extreme sport," Wladawsky-Berger said.

But key to dealing with the changes in computing is a strategy based on common and open standards, including Linux, Wladawsky-Berger said. It was open standards that were pivotal for the Internet's success in the first place, he said.

An impressive range

"The reason we are so excited about Linux is we believe Linux can do for applications what the Internet did for networks," Wladawksy-Berger said. The industry needs common APIs, common tools and a common set of skills, which will open up economic opportunities to build on top of that common base. Those common applications will work on all platforms.

"Linux is extremely popular. It's already the fastest-growing operating system out there," he said. "We have just about Linux-enabled all of our products."

The range of IBM's Linux adoption has been from very large clusters to its recently unveiled Linux-enabled watch.

Today's Linux-related announcements included a deal with Red Hat Inc. to bundle IBM's Linux-based software, the first such deal for IBM with a commercial Linux provider. The deal calls for IBM and Red Hat to jointly market and distribute bundled IBM, Lotus Development Corp., Tivoli Systems Inc. and Red Hat software.

IBM, which recently joined the open-source group Gnome, also announced its NUMA-Q server now can run Linux applications, and it has similarly Linux-enabled the NetVista Thin Client for Linux on the desktop. IBM is also releasing more than 100 printer drivers to the open-source community.

"That may sound very mundane until you try to print a document and you don't have the damn driver," Wladawsky-Berger said.

Other Linux enhancements will be added to IBM's Netfinity servers as the Armonk, N.Y. company seeks to make all of its servers either natively support or include interfaces for Linux. The company debuted a pre-packaged cluster offering for Linux and will add support for Linux in Visual Age Micro Edition. The latter will help developers build embedded Java applications on the Linux platform.

The company also is working to make its tools Linux-friendly, and it announced the availability of source code for a new application development tool, called SashXB, for the Linux desktop.

"We believe Linux is a big deal because we believe the Internet and e-business are big deals, and to help push them forward we need to work very closely with" the Linux community, Wladawsky-Berger said.

IBM's Solutions 2000 developer conference continues through Thursday. The conference drew about 4,000 attendees, double the attendance of two years ago.