[LINK] IBM and Linux

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Thu Sep 19 01:09:03 AEST 2013

Glen writes,

> They make Linus look organised .. which he is ..


"IBM will fund development of Linux applications and expansion of a Linux
 cloud service"

IBM will invest US$1 billion to promote Linux development over the next 
five years as it tries to adapt Power mainframes and servers to handle 
cloud and big data applications in distributed computing environments.

The investment, expected to be announced at the LinuxCon conference in New 
Orleans this week, will fund Linux application development programs for 
IBM's Power servers and also be used to expand a cloud service where 
developers can write and test applications for Power servers before 
deployment. The investment will also facilitate software development around 
IBM's new Power8 chips, which will go into servers next year.

IBM is also adding a Power Systems  Linux Center in Montpellier, France, 
where developers will get access to Power chip and server technologies to 
develop and deploy Linux applications. The company already has similar 
centers in Beijing, New York and Austin, Texas.

Linux is the OS of choice for cloud and big data deployments in data 
centers, said Doug Balog, general manager of Power Systems at IBM.

"As we look at our current clients, with Linux I want to leverage what they 
have developed for years and bring these new ... capabilities," Balog said.

The investment will be applied to Linux development by clients, developers 
and students, though IBM did not elaborate on how the funds will be made 
available. IBM expects code contributions in applications such as 
OpenStack, a distributed computing environment that deals with processing 
of large data sets over a network of servers.

IBM's homegrown Power hardware is best known through the Linux-based Watson 
supercomputer, which outperformed humans in the televised game show 
"Jeopardy." Power chips have been traditionally used for demanding 
applications such as financial transaction processing, but IBM believes the 
chips are flexible enough to handle cloud computing and analytics through 
features that quickly gather, manage and analyze data.

IBM also hopes to rope in more Linux developers to remain competitive 
against companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell, whose x86 servers are 
widely used in cloud and analytics deployments. IBM also makes x86 servers, 
but believes Power can transcend from mainframes into general-purpose 

IBM has already invested millions of dollars in Linux development over more 
than a decade. The latest announcement follows IBM's decision last month to 
open up its Power chip architecture and license it to third parties that 
want to build servers and components based on the processor. IBM hopes 
Linux will make Power8 attractive to third parties that want to build non-
x86 servers.

The first Power licensees of Power include Google, Nvidia, Mellanox and 
Tyan, who joined IBM as part of a new development alliance called 
OpenPower. IBM hopes to expand OpenPower as part of the $1 billion [B] 
investment. IBM will continue offering Power servers, with an upgrade to 
Power8 due next year.

The Power8 chip architecture has new technologies compared to its 
predecessor, Power 7+ and IBM also hopes developers will write applications 
that take advantage of the new hardware. The architecture's new 
technologies include the PCI-Express 3.0 protocol, shared memory and a new 
CAPI (Coherence Attach Processor Interface) for outside components to 
communicate with the CPU and other processing units.

The increased focus on Linux raises questions about the future of AIX, but 
Balog said the Unix OS remains targeted at higher-end applications. The 
Linux investment could potentially bring the flexibility for existing 
Power-AIX infrastructures to handle new cloud and analytics workloads, 
Balog said. AIX and Linux are already cross-compatible at the 
virtualization and system management levels, so servers with the different 
operating systems can coexist in a data center.

"AIX is too important to my client base and long-term strategy," Balog 
said, adding that the company has billions of dollars invested in the OS, 
and will continue to invest in it.

Linux was the least important operating system to IBM on the Power 
architecture and it was treated as a stepchild, said Al Gillen, program 
vice president for system software research at IDC.

"What has changed is the Unix market has been in a nosedive and while IBM 
has successfully captured some significant share from competitors in this 
contracting market, it is still a declining business for IBM. As a result, 
the company has concluded that it needs to readjust its investment to 
reflect where the growth opportunity is [Linux], rather than where the 
growth opportunity used to be [Unix]," Gillen said in an email.

It's not clear where IBM's $1 billion investment will go, but the money 
could be applied to improve Linux on Power, development of hardware 
architecture, and porting kernel-based virtual machine to Power. However, 
the investment will not directly benefit the greater Linux community 
relying on x86 servers, Gillen said.

"That said, there also are likely to be other investments that IBM is 
making that do benefit the larger Linux community. For example, any work 
IBM does to increase the performance or scale of the base Linux operating 
system likely benefits all Linux users," Gillen said.

Hardware makers are focusing more on customizing software to take advantage 
of power, performance and instruction-set features on specific chips. 

Intel, which is a big contributor to Linux, offers a version of Hadoop for 
IT administrators who want scalability in their x86 server infrastructures 
to deal with large amounts of data. Oracle is customizing its database, 
cloud and other applications to work with Solaris OS and Sparc chips.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG 
News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is 
agam_shah at idg.com

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