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Linux Magazine: Friendly, Big and Blue; Is IBM Becoming Linux's Father Figure?

Jan 04, 2001, 23:27 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Robert McMillan)

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"A few months after IBM went public with its work on Apache, Daniel Frye brought up Linux at a regular meeting of IBM's software division's Emerging Strategy Group. Frye had been working with the scientific community and had noticed that Linux was on the minds of "some very bright people" within the scientific community. However, Linux was virtually unknown within IBM. The response from his peers at the meeting: "You brought it up; you go figure it out," remembers Frye."

"So he did, e-mailing out a one-page description of what was going on with Linux. That one-page description got the attention of IBM's VP of technical strategy, Carla Gude. From there, "it was just a snowball," says Frye. By October of 1998 one of IBM's most influential thinkers, Larry Loucks (a.k.a. the "father of AIX") had laid down the groundwork for a formal Linux strategy in a white paper that was presented to IBM's executive team."

"At the very least, Linux represented a new platform for the IBM software to run on, but not all product managers were initially convinced that a Linux port could be easily done. They would say, "The bill is 1,000 years and one million people; we can't do it," says Frye. However, it was not uncommon for IBM developers -- many of them Linux enthusiasts -- to have already completed Linux ports of their own. They would then surprise their managers by showing them working code when the question of a Linux port was raised. By late fall of 1998, those same product managers were now coming back to Dan Frye saying, "We really pulled the team together and got it done." Frye remembers, "The truth was that three guys in a closet ported it over a weekend. That proved how modular and well-designed Linux was. Management was saying 'we can't do it; it's too expensive,' and in early December the team had it done." A typical port, IBM's DB/2 database for Linux was released several weeks ahead of plan."

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