Linux Evolves and So Does IBM’s Linux Technology Center
At the IBM Linux Technology Center (LTC), we sometimes forget – because we have been around so long – that for some, the LTC is “new” news. Thanks to the success of Linux and other open source projects, there are people continually joining the open source technology ecosystem. Often, they don’t know our history, so we want to explain how we act as a resource for not only IBM but also for our partners and customers.
In the late 1990s, IBM had begun using open source software in a number of areas - especially the Apache Web Server which IBM was using internally and considering using in its products. IBM’s research teams were doing more and more with open source software and Linux, and our high performance computing customers were beginning to become interested in open source software and Linux, as well.
In 1998, Dan Frye, Vice President, IBM Open Systems Development, took the lead in ascertaining what the company’s participation in open source software should be. Through that effort, the plan to make a substantial commitment to Linux for IBM products and for Linux itself came to fruition. In 2000, IBM decided to invest $1 billion in Linux, and to help improve the operating system by working within the community. The Linux Technology Center was born out of that investment, and I am happy to say, many other companies subsequently became involved and there was an explosion of development around Linux.
The LTC provides a Linux operating system development team for IBM, supporting all IBM server platforms, all IBM server software, and acting as the technical liaison to our Linux distribution partners. IBM is part of the Linux open source community, and works directly with Linux distributors.
The team of developers working with the LTC grew fairly quickly from just a dozen, to 50, to a hundred, to several hundred developers today. Initially, we were looking at basically understanding open source and trying to make meaningful contributions. We were working to make Linux a better operating system for the kinds of things that we knew our IBM customers would want. In those days, that was reliability, scalability, better testing, performance, I/O support – even documentation – and as we did that, we began to understand Linux better and started to use it more widely internally at IBM.
The announcement of IBM’s $1 billion investment and the early work we did enabled Linux to gain acceptance by many large enterprise customers that might have been slower to come to Linux had IBM not aggressively supported it. Today, the Linux focus for the LTC is evolving. For example, we initially worked on the printing subsystem because that was an inhibitor to open source adoption, but that is a done deal now. The things we have to spend time on have completely changed and our efforts tend to be much more strategic these days.
While we continue to channel our efforts to some of the same areas such as making sure Linux supports IBM Power Systems and IBM System z, we are also becoming involved in new open source efforts. It is part of a natural evolution. Linux has grown up.
More about what the LTC is working on now in my next blog.
Director, IBM Linux Technology Center