Linux: 'Not Just Another OS'

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of technology and strategy and a 30-year veteran at IBM Corp., is the company's chief Linux strategist. He recently sat down with Computerworld's Dominique Deckmyn to talk about the open-source operating system.

CW: IBM has long maintained a multiple operating system strategy. But the company has also become something of a Linux advocate.

Wladawsky-Berger: Yes, we still have a multi-operating-system strategy. [But] we view Linux as not just another OS - just like the Internet isn't just another network.

What made the Internet special is that the community collaborated on the standards and built the infrastructure. What we realized about Linux was it wasn't another operating system like S/390 or AIX or Windows. It was more a community coming together to collaborate on application interface standards, on a common application development environment, on a common set of tools. And by virtue of it all being based on standards, we felt comfortable that we can integrate Linux support in all our operating systems.

CW: You describe Linux as a common application environment that plays a role similar to that of Java. How do they relate?

Wladawsky-Berger: Java is one level higher. Java is really a programming environment, a way of writing applications, especially object-oriented applications with Enterprise JavaBeans. But an application still needs to run on an operating environment. And getting an agreement on that operating environment is what Linux can provide.

Getting agreement on standards involves getting agreement on the networking level, which the Internet provides; at the programming level, which Java provides; on the content exchange level, which XML is all about. And now, with Linux, we can start getting agreement on the application interfaces, on the runtime execution environment and on the application development environment.

We are looking to Linux to supply the missing ingredient.

CW: How does Linux relate to Monterey, your plan for Unix on 64-bit Intel processors?

Wladawsky-Berger: Linux is a major part of our total Unix strategy. We support two major kernels - AIX and Linux - and they complement each other. AIX is a very mature Unix; it's [the] highest-rated Unix, from a technical point of view, and it's very good at transaction processing. Linux is the most popular and fastest-growing Unix in the industry and the best for high-volume applications. It's most popular on one- to four-way PCs and on appliances. We want to make AIX API-compatible with Linux, which means you can put an application on AIX with minimal effort.

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