IBM Sees an On-Demand World

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-06-02

IBM Sees an On-Demand World

NEW ORLEANS—There is an ever-increasing focus on innovation or, as IBM refers to it, on-demand computing. So said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBMs vice president of technical strategy and innovation, at the Red Hat Summit here on Thursday.

Delivering a keynote address at the Red Hat Summit titled "The Future of IT in an On-Demand World," Wladawsky-Berger said such things as convergence and advances in technology are driving innovation, with the desktop and laptop now as legacy as the mainframe, which underscores how IT is now becoming integrated into the physical world.

Click here to read more about IBMs on-demand computing strategy.

"We are taking those components and packing them tighter and tighter together," he said, pointing to IBMs Blue Gene supercomputer, which is Linux-based, "though I dont need to tell you that," he quipped.

While technology is important, it is less important than the world of open standards and how valuable things become when brought together rather than remaining separate, Wladawsky-Berger said.

Grid computing, which is building on the open standards of the Internet, enables all resources to be virtualized and is giving people access to IT resources in a very simple way.

Click here to read about how Sun downsized its N1 Grid Computing plan.

The newest area of standards that is achieving liftoff and holds tremendous promise is SOAs (service-oriented architectures). SOAs allow software development to be decomposed into components that interface with one another via open standards and allow business integration at all levels. "This will change drastically the way we look at software and software applications over time," he said.

IBMs On Demand business, is after all nothing less than being able to understand these business processes as "we are in a point in history where business processes and solutions are critical, so we are trying to make this more systematic," Wladawsky-Berger said.

One of the major changes at IBM over the past few years was understanding business at the process level, which was the first step of understanding good design, he said. Greater flexibility is also required from business models and the supporting IT architecture.

One of the major consequences of better understanding and standardizing processes, once everything is virtualized, is that companies then can decide which processes they should do themselves and which they should go out and find, he said.

"We are living in an increasingly collaborative world due to the Internet and open standards, and business process problems can only be solved by communities of people collaborating together, much like open source. This is absolutely key to the 21st century," he said.

Next Page: The value of communities.

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Next to take the Red Hat Summit stage was Greg Stein, chairman of the Apache Software Foundation, which was established in June 1999 to hold the intellectual property of the Web server, but has expanded significantly beyond that, Stein said.

Open-source projects tend to be started by one or a few people, with the number of those involved growing over time, he said, but the problem is the project founders often move on and stop contributing.

"The Web server was started by eight people, but only one of those is now still working on this, part time," he said, pointing to the value of communities in ensuring that open-source projects survive over time.

"A community outlives any individual, and we at Apache strongly believe in communities. We manage those communities, rather than the code. Communities also encourage innovation by supporting a range of individual ideas. It also facilitates a broad range of interests," he said.

This model is also quite reproducible, Stein said, pointing to how some 70 percent of all Web pages on the Internet are served up by Apache HTTP servers.

On the issue of licenses, he said the Foundation feels strongly that its code should be "usable and modifiable by everyone, for any purpose they see fit. We do not impose qualities that could be viral or [put] heavy limits on modifications, which makes our license model very acceptable to businesses and others," Stein said.

The Apache HTTP Server has been No. 1 for nine years, and this encourages open standards conformance. All of this success has created a "Gravity Well" at Apache, with a lot of people wanting to join and contribute, he said.

Also at the Red Hat Summit, two enterprises share Linux success stories. Click here to read more.

As such, it set up the Apache Incubator, which handles incoming projects before they become an official project. There are various reasons for this, including allowing developers to live under Apaches legal umbrella, and encouraging adoption and use.

"The Apache Software Foundation is viewed as capable as it can make an accepted project successful over its lifetime," Stein said, before looking forward. Apache will be doing a lot more different types of software, since "there is no stopping point as there is always more to be done."

Apache is also embracing the trend of more open software, and welcomed the growth of the free software stack as more and more applications are built on top of it. But the complexity is not diminishing as modern systems have hundreds of installed components.

"Over time pretty much all business software will be free, with packaged products going away. But customization, configuration, installation and maintenance would be charged for," he said.

The Apache Software Foundation is taking the long view and looking at what will be needed over the next 10 years and what kinds of projects it will be providing. It will also concentrate on developing more of the software stack, Stein said.

"We are beginning to look at issues beyond our own communities, like the issue around the EU and its patent policy. Apache is a unique organization that deals with communities instead of code, and we will be tracking the commoditization trend going forward," he concluded.

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