IBM done with Linux past, ready for future

IBM Corp. is proud of its place as one of the first major backers of Linux and sees no reason to alter its future course.

Doug Elix, senior vice president and group executive of IBM Global Services, was the fourth executive in IBM history to take center stage at the LinuxWorld conference, delivering the Wednesday keynote speech. The company's show history, with top executives announcing large investments and developer programs for the open-source operating system, places IBM atop the corporate world as a Linux backer, Elix said. This commitment will continue as IBM pushes Linux as a way to offer customers more choice and give them better return on their IT investments.

"Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake, the Linux momentum is real," Elix said, during his keynote.

Despite what it calls an early lead, IBM has been joined by other large vendors such as Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. in backing the Linux developer community. The companies are trying to tap into the open-source programming model that drives Linux, and have thousands of coders working for free fixing software. In addition, Linux is often billed as an increasingly popular competitor to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows and the Unix operating systems.

While many companies have jumped on the Linux bandwagon, IBM lays claim to the largest Linux customer base at this time. The company has thousands of customers using Linux for serving up files and Web pages and for running some business software, Elix said.

Over the next few years, Linux will play a more important role in business, possibly by providing a way to reduce software licensing costs and to provide more secure networks for both the public and private sectors, he said.

As an example of this growth, Elix pointed to the expansion IBM has seen in Linux deployments among its major customers. In 2001, IBM took a look at 75 of its largest accounts globally and found that only 14 were running Linux on a limited scale. One year later, 22 of those companies are running Linux with several of them doing so with large deployments.

In addition, Linux will play a major role in IBM's efforts to build out large networks of computers called grids, which can work as one computer.

By using Linux to build out these types of next-generation networks, customers will enjoy lower-cost, more stable and open systems on which to base their IT infrastructures, Elix said.

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