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GartnerGroup: The Competitive Impact of IBM's Linux Announcement

Feb 13, 2000, 15:15 (7 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by G. Weiss)

"IBM claims that, with its help, Linux will improve and mature for broad enterprise use within five years. To build its credibility, IBM will form a new unit to identify appropriate technologies from AIX/Monterey and make them available for Linux and the open-source community. IBM will continue to differentiate Monterey and Linux through proprietary intellectual property that will remain unique to Monterey, but IBM predicts some kind of convergence (at the application-programming-interface level) of these two operating environments, although details are vague. IBM is already engaged in another convergence strategy as part of Monterey with The Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) Unix, Sequent Dynix/ptx (now IBM NUMA-Q) and AIX. At this point, IBM has not specified which technologies will be given to the open-source community and which will remain proprietary. IBM, however, is now presenting itself as integrator of Unix and Linux with open-system technologies - a position advocated by GartnerGroup. So far, no other system vendor (perhaps with the exception of SGI, on a smaller scale) has defined or assumed such a role. There are clear risks to IBM's strategy, although the returns of a well-executed strategy in furthering IBM's e-business goals would outweigh the risks...."

"Linux puts Sun in an uncomfortable position. Sun expresses support for Linux (although largely as a backhanded gesture in its fight against Microsoft). However, Sun's own software deliverables above the kernel level have weaknesses that IBM wants to exploit. IBM has greater software depth and quality (e.g., Sun will lag behind in file system clustering, high availability and workload management until "Full Moon" ships). If it tosses much of its software into Linux-based solutions, IBM can exploit the advantage of wider dissemination of its software on Linux platforms. With close ties to the open-source community and a willingness to invest in open-source software (OSS) initiatives and Linux distributors, IBM promotes a competitive alternative to Solaris. Although Sun may support initiatives for Linux on SPARC or Intel, Sun's relations with the OSS community are strained (see Note 3), and it has no inclination to build support and integration programs for Linux. It intends to drive Solaris into appliance server markets in direct conflict with Linux. Also, although Sun touts Java as a cornerstone of its open-software strategy, IBM has neutralized that issue with its own Java, Apache Web server and Extensible Markup Language initiatives...."

"Users may be confused as IBM plays advocate of Linux on all platforms - whether on S/390 or a small Intel "pizza box". IBM is also raising expectations that Linux will eventually become the OS engine of large back-office systems. We presume the new group will coordinate and harness AIX, Lotus, DB2 and Tivoli software in enhancing Linux solutions and manageability to eventual parity with AIX. The future assumption is that the OS itself is no longer a revenue generator but a foundation technology commoditized to drive value enhancements above the kernel. If IBM gives away the OS, it can take Solaris out of play and compete on the higher levels of functionality, where Sun is weaker for Intel-based servers (Linux on reduced-instruction-set-computer technology is a niche opportunity at best)."

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