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VNU Net: IBM offers partial support for open source

Jun 16, 2000, 13:02 (0 Talkback[s])

By Mark Samuels, VNU Net

IBM has reconfirmed its support for Linux and its plans to embrace the open source movement behind the operating system, but said it would keep its own middleware code under lock and key.

Speaking at the IBM Linux Summit at the Boeblingen Development Laboratory in Stuttgart this week, IBM officials said the company is considering using open source distribution for a number of technologies, not all Linux-based.

Big Blue earlier this week announced it would support Linux in its Thinkpad range of notebook computers and said it was planning Linux support in its RS/6000 and AS/400 servers.

Mark Cathcart, a technology strategist with IBM, said that the open source method of developing and distributing software would be integral to the company's development plans. "And these strategies could go off in a number of ways that are not Linux-based," he said.

Ross Mauri, vice president for Unix software at IBM, said: "IBM views Linux as the key element for the future of ebusiness. Linux is an open platform, and just like the internet, everyone has a shot at enhancing the standards. And we believe that's a powerful paradigm for improving ebusiness."

Mauri produced a range of impressive statistics to back up his claims. He said Linux powered more than a third of the world's web servers and 40 per cent of all Linux servers were used for internet-related applications. He said that there were around nine million Linux users at the end of 1999.

Adam Jollans, IBM's Linux marketing manager, said that Linux could be scaled down to a relatively small size, even to fit Wap phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). He said that this would be essential in IBM's future development plans.

"If you look forward to the next stage, we'll be able to use Linux on applications everywhere. Linux gives us portability, flexibility and choice," said Jollans. Mauri confirmed that possible development areas included scaled down Linux operating systems for Wap and PDAs.

Nevertheless, Daniel Frye, program director for IBM's Linux technology centre, said that certain areas of IBM's development programme would remain protected. "Open source is not applicable for all areas. Most of our middleware is not at risk from open source. We don't see any business reason to give the code away because we would provide distinct business advantages for some of our rivals," said Frye.

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