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$1 Billion Well Spent? - page 2

An Interview with Big Blue's New Linux Boss

  • April 24, 2003
  • By Robert McMillan

LP: I'd like to ask you a few things about IBM's Linux Technology Center. You have about 250 people working there. Can you tell me exactly what they're doing with their time? Are they helping customers or developing the kernel, or doing other work?

Stallings: They're making contributions. Their full time job is making contributions to the kernel. That's it. They don't have another job sweeping the floor or working on Websphere or anything like that. Another way to look at it is, IBM is making a real physical contribution to the open source community, both in terms of what we're doing with our products, but also what we're doing with the kernel. And these people are the ones who work on the kernel full time.

LP: So what specific LTC projects are the most important? What does IBM most want to see in the Linux kernel?

Stallings: A lot of this is a reflection of what the market is asking for, and what the market is asking for are things that get the Linux kernel data center-ready or enterprise-ready. One of the most important things they're working on is the carrier-grade Linux initiative. But if you think about what we want Linux to do going forward, we'd like Linux to scale to 16-way and higher. And we'd like things that build in these redundancies similar to what these mainframe systems will allow it to do. Customers are asking for it to be better and resilient and strong, and those are the things that they're working on.

LP: A few years ago, IBM talked about investing $1 billion in Linux. Where are you with that so far? Has that money been spent?

Stallings: Yeah, we spent $1 billion on Linux.

LP: OK so that's done. How much are you spending going forward then?

Stallings: The better news is that everything that we've invested in Linux, we've recouped. We're very comfortable that it has paid us back. It's certainly benefited the customer greater than $1 billion.

You can look at the numbers, and I'll give you one simple example. Our mainframe business has been a part of the company for a long time, and since Linux, it's actually grown. As a matter of fact, 20 percent of the MIPS shipment to go out on mainframes are Linux-ready. They're going out to carry Linux workloads. So it's helped the mainframe business grow.

If you look at our Intel server business, we passed Dell in the fourth quarter on the Linux Intel business. I mean the pace that we're on is growing at greater than 45-50 percent a year, so it's growing that business.

LP: So how much will you spend this year on Linux?

Stallings: We don't break it out. First of all, it's very hard to determine. Here's the reason: the brand divisions spend money on their own, enabling their platforms for Linux. Now I spend money on sales and marketing programs, we spend money with customers, we spend money on trials, studies. We do a lot of things on a corporate level, but if you were to count things up across the company, it'd be significant.

LP: How many people do you have working in your division?

Stallings: I don't know... I'll just give you some numbers though. I would count the Linux Technology Center--that's 250; we probably have twice that number working with customers around the world.

LP: I'm trying to figure out whether IBM has slowed down its Linux investment since that $1 billion figure was announced.

Stallings: I wasn't in this role when that investment was made. That was to get us in it, and get us going. To get us in the community and to get platforms enabled. But our investment is ongoing. It's harder to count as we go forward, because is so daggum broad. When you think about what goes into getting every one of our X series boxes enabled to support Linux. There's work underway to get our entire P series line, our entire I series line. When we add it all up just in human capital, there's over 7,500 people working on Linux in this company: full time. They don't all work for me. They work individually, but it got started with a very small $1 billion investment.

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