IBM hopes to have 40,000 Linux desktop users within the company by year's end, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the computer giant thinks everyone should move to the Linux desktop, an IBM executive said Tuesday at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco.
Already, about 15,000 of IBM's more than 300,000 employees have moved to the Linux desktop, said Scott Handy, IBM's vice president of worldwide Linux strategy and market development. While Handy believes that the Linux desktops are costing IBM less than the US$5,000 to $7,000 per year analyst firms typically ascribe to the maintenance of Windows systems, the switch to a Linux PC may not be a great deal for everyone.
"We're not going to see as much traction in the traditional desktop space," Handy said. "If you look at the TCO (total cost of ownership) characteristics of (Linux and open-source software) versus Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office, it's not that great."
In many cases, the added cost of testing and supporting a second desktop is enough to make it more expensive for many companies to add Linux.
IBM has created an Open Client Assessment program, initially designed to help customers move their desktops from Windows to Linux, but IBM discovered ways for customers to reduce costs by keeping their Windows desktops, and the program is now focused on moving customers toward server-centric applications, regardless of desktop platform, Handy said in an interview after the keynote. "About half of the things we tell them to do could be done on Windows," he said.
In January, a memo from IBM Chief Information Officer Bob Greenberg challenged the company to move to a Linux-based desktop by the end of 2005. The company has formed an internal initiative, called the Open Desktop project, to facilitate the move.
IBM is not developing its own desktop distribution for the project, Handy said. The company's desktops will be based on standard Linux distributions from both Suse Linux and Red Hat, he said.
Outside of its Open Desktop project, IBM has more than 600 people in 43 locations working on 150 open-source projects, Handy said. Linux on the server is increasingly being accepted in the enterprise as a platform for application consolidation, and, more recently, for running enterprise applications like those from SAP. "There are now over 2,000 installations of (IBM) customers in production with Linux on SAP," he said. "A lot of people are doing enterprise applications here."
During the interview after his keynote, Handy disputed claims by The SCO Group that IBM is trying to destroy the economic value of Unix by promoting Linux. In a shrinking Unix market, IBM's Unix-based pSeries sales have grown, Handy said, in part because of its Linux campaign.
"We made Linux an issue in the agenda of customers," he said. This gave IBM an advantage over Unix rivals like Sun Microsystems, which were slower to adopt Linux, he said. "Customers who wanted to talk about Linux couldn't talk to Sun about it."