IBM's top Linux expert (page 1 of 3)
- Monday, October 10 - 2005 at 15:22
Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president, Technical Strategy and Innovation, IBM, attributes the success of the OS to this growing community of Linux contributors. The Linux Executive Report recently spoke with Wladawsky-Berger about the past, present and future of Linux.
Answer: First of all, as the title suggests, I look at the overall technical strategy across the company—what we're doing in systems and software. But what I'm spending much of my time on is the major technical elements driving services and solutions.
This is one big area of major change. I'm particularly focusing my time on the marketplace where some profound things are going on. The marketplace is where our constantly advancing technology meets market changes and evokes new business demands for incredibly sophisticated solutions. This is where the greatest innovation is taking place.
Incremental changes are more orderly. People understand what they are—both the people building them in our labs and our customers. The drastic changes are a little harder to understand.
You know, like when the Internet came along—what does it mean? Or when Linux or on demand came along—what do they mean? So, I'm particularly focused on some of the more profound changes that are generating major innovation in the marketplace.
Q: How do you define what IBM's innovation initiative means to customers? How do you see Linux fitting into that picture?
A: In a way, innovation means that we help our customers exploit the best possible technologies to get the maximum business value. We help our customers do what they need to do to be competitive and—hopefully—leaders in their industry by helping them take advantage of IT.
Now, Linux has a major role in that effort because it opens up new opportunities. For example, the world of inexpensive supercomputing based on clusters and blades has totally grown up around Linux.
The opportunity to use large numbers of inexpensive microprocessors as clusters to solve new problems in engineering, healthcare and pharmaceuticals has emerged all because of Linux. A big part of pervasive computing consists of embedding microprocessors complete with operating systems and applications into the physical world.
You find them in everything from automobiles and oil-drilling rigs to medical equipment and consumer entertainment devices. Much of this is enabled by Linux and many infrastructure applications are based on Linux as well.
So, when I think of Linux, I sort of think of it the way I think of TCP/IP; they both enable lots of new products to come to market. People don't have to think about what's the right networking protocol—they use TCP/IP. Likewise, people don't have to think about what's the right operating system—they use Linux.
Q: How much would you say Linux has gained in maturity since you first led the initiative at IBM?
A: Well, we started the major Linux initiative in January 2000; that's when I came to work at the Systems Group for Sam Palmisano to run our Linux initiative. At the time, Linux was like a young rookie with incredible promise and we really liked how good the community was.
The reason IBM embraced Linux was because our top people told us this was really good and it had very big potential in a number of areas. But at the time, Linux had its limits. It ran on 1- or 2-way systems, for example, and had very few applications on it.
The picture today is dramatically different. Linux is a very good, reliable operating system up to 8-way SMPs (symmetric multiprocessors) and is even able to run on 16-ways quite well.
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