IBM Touts Linux Strategy with New Virt, SuSE, Supercomputer Intiatives

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. -- IBM made several announcements Tuesday at the annual LinuxWorld conference, introducing a new series of products, services and initiatives that the company says will "further expand IBM's commitment to Linux and open source by enabling the next generation of Linux."

Big Blue's list of revelations includes plans to release its first open source software contribution for supercomputers based on Linux; a new ISV software appliance toolkit; plans to pre-load Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 in its Lotus Foundations product; an expansion of its real-time Linux initiative; and the introduction of a new version of z/VM.

"We see the next real growth [in the Linux market] coming from five main directions," Inna Kuznetsova, director of Linux at IBM, told reporters during a LinuxWorld press conference. "These include Big Green Linux, Linux for business critical operations, Linux desktop, mid-market solutions and emerging technologies on Linux."

The new version of IBM's z/VM virtualization technology is central to its company-wide "Big Green Linux" initiative, Kuznetscova said. Big Green Linux is a cross-company initiative within IBM that reviews the company's energy consumption. The new z/VM 5.4 is designed to permit users to run thousands of instances of Linux on the mainframe. Those running Linux on IBM's System z mainframes will be able to use the dynamic memory upgrade, which allows them to add memory in real time.

Thinking big, IBM is reaching out to supercomputer users with its HPC Open Software Stack, its first certified package of Linux-based OSS for those machines. The stack is designed to create clusters of servers that together form a single, super-fast system. IBM claims such a system is both more productive and easier to manage. The company is including its Extreme Cluster Administration Toolkit (xCAT) in the stack; it will be available through a software repository hosted by the University of Illinois's National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Thinking small, the company is set to help ISVs deliver Linux-based software appliances to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with a new ISV software appliance toolkit. The company defines software appliance as a "ready-to-use, fully integration solution that can be delivered on DVDs or USB drives." The idea is to reduce the level of IT skill required to deploy the solution; IBM claims few as one-to-five clicks to install.

"IBM has been investing in enterprise Linux from the beginning," said Jeff S. Smith, vice president of Open Source and Linux Middleware for IBM’s Software Group. "And we have this humongous portfolio of software available to support it. But as we have watched Linux mature, we’ve seen a couple of areas that are on the brink of opening up opportunities for us, for customers, for partners, and for the industry."

The mid-market customer represents one of those "areas on the brink" of opportunity, Smith said. SMBs are smaller, maintain smaller IT staffs, have less money to spend on IT, and don’t really care how sophisticated the technology is as long as it delivers value for their businesses. "We’ve long believed that one of the best ways to deliver technology to this market is through what is popularly known as an appliance," Smith said.

An appliance may or may not include hardware, Smith explained, but the software component of it is pre-built, pre-configured, and pre-integrated to perform a specific set of functions. An appliance can be self-installed and configured, or installed by a partner, but the overall benefit is that customers spend less time on whatever the appliance is programmed to do.

IBM says that its plan to load a preconfigured version of SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 in its Lotus Foundations line of self-managing appliance servers "opens new opportunities for Domino software vendors to deliver their applications on a software appliance to the smallest businesses." Domino is Lotus Domino is a server product that provides enterprise-grade e-mail, collaboration capabilities, and a custom application platform.

The company also announced the ISV Software Appliance Initiative, which is aimed at enabling a wide range of ISVs to deliver Linux software appliances to the midmarket. Part of this initiative is a Lotus Foundations ISV developer kit, now in beta.

The appliance strategy goes head to head with Microsoft’s Small Business Server. "Until now, there really hasn’t been a good integrated, enterprise-ready choice for small business besides this Microsoft offering," Smith said. "We believe it will present a compelling alternative and bring openness to the world of small business, which hasn’t been historically true."

The company also plans to add to the support it already provides for real-time Linux with additional support for Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Real Time Linux on select IBM BladeCenter servers. The company will also be adding support for WebSphere Real Time for Java applications.

Finally, IBM introduced a new version of WebSphere Application Server Community Edition (WAS CE). The new version is based on the open source Apache Geronimo application server. WAS CE Version 2.1 comes with an upgraded administration console designed to simply and automate the application deployment process by providing what the company calls "an interactive deployment creation tool" and the capability to deploy applications on a group of servers.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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