Dick Sullivan Delves into IBM's Open-Source Focus

Because many industry heavyweights have begun supporting the Linux OS on their products, we were curious to see what IBM Corp.'s plans are. Kevin Railsback, West Coast technical director at InfoWorld, spoke with Dick Sullivan, vice president of integrated solutions marketing at IBM's Software Group, based in Armonk, N.Y. Sullivan gave us the lowdown on IBM's future Linux and open-source initiatives for an overall sense of IBM's stance on LinuxInfoWorld: How do you see Linux's role in the enterprise, and how do these new releases support that role?

Sullivan: We want Linux to move into the transaction space and into the mission-critical application space, which is why database and Web application serving is so important. We think that where DB2 Universal Database and Websphere Application Server really come in is in their ability to move into the next level of applications -- the Linux platform.

InfoWorld: Are there fundamental issues with Linux that need to be addressed?

Sullivan: Enterprises tend to be heterogeneous in nature in that they have multiple operating systems. I think that we're going to see that continue for the foreseeable future. The promise of Linux is that it is a cross-platform operating system so it has the potential to be the unifying operating system across the different sets of hardware platforms that customers have.

[But] it does need some additional capabilities that are provided in some of the mainframe operating systems, like OS/390 and other Unix operating systems around scalability, parallel systems, [and] hierarchical storage management.

InfoWorld: What added benefits do these releases offer businesses that choose the Linux platform?

Sullivan: DB2 and Websphere Advanced Server are leading database and Web application serving products in the marketplace. Both have proven to be able to run with enterprise transactions on the database side and database-oriented transactions in the Web application server side. What we do with Websphere, as an example, is take all of the experience that we've had with CICS [mainframe query system] and distributed CICS in distributed transaction serving and extend that to the Web. We also have a significant set of foundations like MQSeries for messaging and workflow types of applications as well as products like the Websphere EveryPlace Server. You'll see us do other things in that same arena where we will contribute [OSes] like AIX to the open-source community and assist in incorporating that into Linux for it to become more enterprise scalable.

InfoWorld: What prompted your investment in the Linux platform?

Sullivan: Initially it was research and market trends in 1998 when some of the research that we were doing indicated that Linux and open source were becoming very important movements. Part of this research was gained through our role in working with the Apache Group, when we saw that Linux was used in a significant percentage of Apache servers. Now we're seeing Linux in terms of being a cross-platform operating system with a lot of characteristics that can drive the future growth of the Web.

When we initially talked to customers, particularly CIOs, they weren't using a lot of Linux and they probably wouldn't until a major vendor announced that they were supporting it. That is one of the reasons why early on we announced that we were supporting [Linux] from a hardware and software standpoint and that we would also be providing the 24-by-7 level of support that customers expect from IBM.

I think that there is a balance here -- open source doesn't necessarily mean not charged. You can be a participant in the open-source community and still have for-fee software.

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