IBM taking open-source ‘Beyond Linux’

IBM Corp. is expanding its open-source strategy beyond Linux by targeting eight new technology areas where it will focus open-source attention going forward.

On Tuesday at LinuxWorld in San Francisco, IBM said it would look to new open-source business opportunities for client-side middleware, development tools, Web application servers, data servers, systems management, hardware, grid computing and IBM Research and consulting projects.

IBM was one of the first hardware companies to support Linux as a mainstream hardware OS, and the company said it hopes to take on similar leadership in these other areas.

Linux has reached a “tipping point’ in its development, helped in part by IBM, so IBM can now nurture other forms of open-source software development, an industry analyst said.

“The ‘Beyond Linux’ strategy will be very important for the open-source landscape,” said John Andrews of Evans Data Corp., in Santa Cruz, California.

“Now that IBM has brought Linux to the point where it’s stable and well established, IBM can help to raise the whole open-source movement to that Linux level,” said Andrews.

The strategy can help enterprise IT managers spend more on network improvements than on just upkeep. “It takes the cost out of the maintenance budget and allows them to put it into the innovation budget,” Andrews said.

IBM’s development tools open-source strategy will leverage the Eclipse development platform, a project the company started several years ago before it was spun off as an independent entity. The Apache Derby and its own free IBM DB2 Express-C databases will be the foundation for its open-source data server work, the company said.

Other open-source projects that will be key to IBM’s expanded strategy include Eclipse’s Rich Client Platform for hosting cross-platform applications; the Apache Software Foundation’s Geronimo open-source Java application server project; the Aperi open-source storage project; and hardware projects; and the Open Grid Services Architecture and Globus Alliance for grid computing.

In a press statement, Scott Handy, vice president of Linux and open source at IBM, characterized the company’s new commitment to supporting open-source software across these technology areas as “bold and aggressive.” He said the company plans to permanently transform its business by supporting open-source software across many areas of software and hardware development.

In an interview, Handy added that expanding open standards helps enterprise customers do more than just control costs.

“They are trying to manage a multivendor environment, and they need everything to work together,” he said. “Open standards helps them do that because it simplifies the management; it allows interoperability because we can share the same codes.”

In addition to these eight areas of focus, IBM also on Tuesday introduced several other initiatives to advance its open-source strategy. The company said it would integrate its Cell BE processor — which extends IBM’s 64-bit POWER chip architecture — into the Linux kernel.

IBM also is working with Red Hat Inc. to provide a more secure version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5. In addition, IBM engineers are developing open-source virtualization software focusing on the areas of systems management, security and POWER architecture, the company said.

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