More than a decade after initially pledging to invest $1 billion in Linux, IBM has once again announced it will invest $1 billion into improving the operating system on its Power Systems.
At LinuxCon 2013, IBM announced plans to invest $1 billion in new Linux and open-source technologies for the company’s Power Systems servers. The investment aims to help clients capitalize on big data and cloud computing with modern systems built to handle the new wave of applications coming to the data center in the post-PC era.
Two immediate initiatives announced—a new client center in Europe and a Linux on Power development cloud—focus on rapidly expanding IBM’s growing ecosystem supporting Linux on Power Systems, which today represents more than 400 independent software vendors (ISVs) with over 1,000 applications, as well as over 2,500 open-source applications worldwide.
The new Power Systems Linux Center in Montpellier, France, is among a growing network of centers around the world that make it simpler for software developers to build and deploy new applications for big data, cloud, mobile and social business computing on open technology building blocks using Linux and the latest IBM POWER7+ processor technology. The first center opened in Beijing in May. Additional centers are located in New York City and Austin, Texas.
The Linux on Power development cloud aims to serve the growing number of developers, partners and clients interested in running Linux on Power Systems. IBM is expanding its Power Systems cloud for development. The no-charge cloud service is ramping up its infrastructure to provide more businesses with the ability to prototype, build, port, and test Linux applications on the Power platform as well as applications built for AIX and IBM i.
“The $1B size of this investment obviously resonates with the $1B Linux investment IBM made in 2000,” Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told eWEEK. “But along with the situation now being completely different than it was then, it seems to me that IBM’s new investment is more tactical than strategic. That’s partly because Linux today — with a major assist from IBM — is clearly a part of the IT mainstream, and a known entity that is core to the operations in thousands of data centers. That’s especially the case in hyper scale cloud computing infrastructures like those owned by Google and Facebook.”
“The $1 billion investment, over three years, is significant,” said Jean Bozman, research vice president at IDC. “Over the years, IBM’s investments of that size have signaled a strategic investment for a product or service that IBM believes will grow its revenue, profits and market share.”
IBM Fellow and Vice President of Power Development Brad McCredie spoke of the new investment in front of more than 1,400 Linux industry leaders, developers and end users at the Linux Foundation’s LinuxCon conference in New Orleans, noting that the funds will be applied to product research, design and development, and will fund a variety of ecosystem skills, product enablement and go-to-market programs for clients, developers, business partners, entrepreneurs, academics and students.
“Many companies are struggling to manage big data and cloud computing using commodity servers based on decades-old, PC era technology,” McCredie said in a statement. “These servers are quickly overrun by data, which triggers the purchase of more servers, creating un-sustainable server sprawl. The era of big data calls for a new approach to IT systems—one that is open, customizable, and designed from the ground up to handle big data and cloud workloads.”
Doug Balog, IBM’s general manager for IBM Power Systems, told eWEEK that IBM has been focused on expanding its commitment to Linux on Power. It started back in the May/June timeframe with Big Blue’s announcement on supporting KVM on the Power platform, and also providing porting centers for clients and ISVs. IBM followed that up with a new product in July, the IBM PowerLinux 7r4 server, and then in August the company announced the OpenPower Consortium with Google, Mellanox, Tyan and NVIDIA. So it has been a fairly consistent drumbeat of Linux on Power, he said. IBM’s OpenPOWER announcement makes the IBM POWER microprocessor available under license to other companies for open collaboration and development. The consortium marks the first time that IBM is making its key server hardware available to drive open innovation.
IBM Pledges $1B for Linux and Open Source on Power Systems
Moreover, “As IBM likes to do when we are quite serious about something, we like to demonstrate it by putting a financial term around it,” Balog said. “And we like to use this billion dollar number. So we’re talking about our billion-dollar commitment to Linux on Power. It’s less about the number and more about the fact that as a $100 billion company, that means a lot of money to us. And as we put previous investments into Linux back a decade ago, we are really putting our wood behind the arrow here in terms of our commitment to Linux. It will be used for R&D and products, as well as for the ecosystem and go-to-market across the board.
“We think this is really important, and our clients tell us it is in a couple of areas,” Balog continued. “One is the role they see the Power platform playing in big data. This is a platform designed to be a data-serving platform. As data continues to grow as an important requirement for our clients—not just data serving and data storage, but also getting better business insights from data through analytics and dealing with the vast scope of social and mobile data that clients want to do analysis around—we see Power continuing to be a very important platform for new-generation applications.”
Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, commented on the investment in a statement, saying, “The last time IBM committed $1B to Linux, it helped start a flurry of innovation that has never slowed. IBM’s continued investments in Linux for Power Systems is welcomed by the Linux community. We look forward to seeing how the Power platform can bring about further innovation on Linux, and how companies and developers can work together to get the most out of this open architecture.”
Indeed, the “last time we invested heavily in Linux, we did a lot in that decade and it did lead to a windfall for the company,” Balog said. “In this case, it’s about, How do we really get the Power platform to be a growing part of the open server infrastructure? Our core capabilities around Power, around AIX and System I are not going away by any stretch of the imagination. But, at the same time, for those new workloads of social, mobile [and] big data, the market has chosen Linux and open software as the way they want to build those applications. Therefore, for my current Power clients they are expecting me to bring that innovation to them so they can continue to leverage the platform they’re comfortable with.”
IBM also wants to bring Power to broader buyers through a combination of Linux on the platform and building on what the company announced with the OpenPower group, “which says I’m willing to allow new buyers to think of using the Power platform in a server way for those markets,” Balog said. “Open Power is all about the server business. We know there are the likes of Google and others who choose to build their own servers and we see the potential of others being equally interested in having an alternative that allows for more open innovation versus a single company driving the innovation agenda.”
IBM has participated in and led a wide range of open-source projects since 1999, and today this includes OpenPOWER, OpenStack, Hadoop, OpenDaylight, KVM, Apache and Eclipse in addition to Linux. Hundreds of IBM programmers and engineers around the world are contributing to open source and driving open innovation as part of the collection of global open-source communities.
“IBM’s strategic investment in Linux helped make that reality possible but the effort also delivered profound tactical value and financial benefits to the company. It could be argued that Linux breathed fresh air into IBM’s venerable mainframe business,” King said. “In fact, over half of the mainframe MIPS shipped last year were Linux-based. IBM’s Power Systems are particularly well-suited to the cloud and big data applications, and this new Linux investment should also help bolster the market presence of Power solutions.”