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Interview: IBM's Adam Jollans Outlines Linux Strategy

Cost is very important...but there's something deeper here

Adam Jollans is IBM Software Group's senior Linux strategist. He leads its worldwide Linux marketing strategy. In this role he is responsible for defining Linux marketing activities at the software category level and integrating them with both IBM's corporate Linux marketing strategy and specific DB2, WebSphere, Lotus, Tivoli, and Rational Linux marketing activities.

This role covers a wide spectrum of activities from understanding customer requirements for Linux software to working with technical strategy to define the Linux software strategy and briefing analysts and press on IBM's Linux strategy and offerings. He is now based in London, following a two-year stint in Somers, NY.

He has been involved with Linux since 1998, and prior to his current assignment, he led the European marketing activities of IBM Software on Linux.

Adam joined IBM in 1984, and since then has worked in a range of technical, sales, and marketing roles - most of them with PC and small systems hardware and software. At IBM he has worked with a leading UK Bank on designing and implementing its distributed branch information system. He also spent two years assigned to IBM development in Florida working on advanced operating systems.

Before joining IBM, he worked as an application software designer and programmer, developing commercial graphics and business software.

Adam graduated from Cambridge University in 1980 with a degree in computer science, and is a chartered engineer and a member of the British Computer Society.

He was coeditor of "OS/2 2.11 Power Techniques," published by QUE, and has also written IBM Redbooks and white papers on PC hardware and software.

Adam recently answered some questions for us about IBM and its Linux strategy.

WEBSPHERE JOURNAL: BRIEFLY DESCRIBE IBM'S LINUX STRATEGY TODAY. HOW DOES IT FIT IN WITH IBM'S OVERALL ENTERPRISE IT VISION FOR YOURCUSTOMERS?

Adam Jollans: Let's start with IBM's overall strategy. This is our On Demand Business vision - how do we help our customers evolve their businesses to be more competitive and more dynamic. This means they have to be able to quickly sense and take advantage of new opportunities, and quickly identify problems and handle them.

To be an On Demand Business in today's world, you need an On Demand enterprise IT infrastructure - a dynamic, efficient, and flexible infrastructure that integrates all parts of your business plus your customers, partners, and suppliers. And Linux offers a great way of delivering this - it's cost-effective, it runs on multiple hardware platforms, it virtualizes well, and it's easy to automate.

Our Linux strategy is integrated in every part of IBM - running Linux on our complete range of eServer hardware, enabling all of our key middleware on Linux, offering support, education, and services for Linux, helping to develop the Linux ecosystem of ISVs and business partners, and contributing back to Linux through the hundreds of engineers and programmers in our Linux Technology Center.

WEBSPHERE JOURNAL: WHAT SORT OF CUSTOMERS DO YOU HAVE? ARE YOU CONCENTRATING ON CERTAIN VERTICAL MARKETS? WHAT SORT OF BUSINESS PROBLEMS ARE THEY SOLVING?

AJ: We have thousands of Linux customers in every industry and of every size - from Charles Schwab on Wall Street to the city of Bergen in Norway. They're all typically looking to reduce costs, increase reliability and security, and gain flexibility by using Linux. Charles Schwab, for example, is using a Linux supercomputer to do investment calculations faster and answer their client queries on the phone. The city of Bergen is reducing IT costs in its public schools by moving to Linux.

Some industries are moving especially fast in their adoption of Linux - this includes finance, retail, and government. We're seeing Linux being used as banks re-architect their branches and move to multi-channel banking - for example, Banco Popolare di Milano in Italy is using Linux and WebSphere on the server and Linux and Mozilla on the client. We're seeing Linux being used in e-commerce sites and point-of-sale systems in retail - for example, Pioneer Petroleum in Canada is using IBM Workplace on Linux in its stores at its gas stations. And we're seeing Linux being used around the world in local and national governments as they provide e-access to their citizens without increasing costs.

WEBSPHERE JOURNAL: LINUX IS OFTEN MENTIONED FAVORABLY FOR ITS COST. DOES IBM BELIEVE THAT TCO IS A KEY BENEFIT OF DEPLOYING LINUX?

AJ: Yes, definitely. Saving money is often the first reason customers consider Linux. We're seeing customers move both Unix and Windows systems to Linux to save money. A recent report by the Robert Frances Group found that Linux is 40% less expensive than a comparable x86-based Windows solution and 54 percent less than a comparable SPARC-based Solaris solution based on a three-year period of ownership. Some of this is down to the hardware - more efficient use of lower-cost hardware. Some of this is because of reduced licensing costs. And some of this is because Linux is reliable and secure, and so needs fewer systems administrators.

However we're also hearing from customers that they are getting unanticipated second-stage benefits from Linux as well. Another recent report - this time by Pund-IT - conducted in-depth interviews with long-term Linux customers and found that they were gaining more flexibility and better use of skills, as well as the cost savings. In fact, all these customers were moving towards being On Demand Businesses - and Linux was helping them get there.

WEBSPHERE JOURNAL: WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF COST, IT SEEMS THAT MANY E-GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES ARE BEING DEVELOPED AND DEPLOYED WITH LINUX. IS THIS SOMETHING THAT IBM HAS SEEN AS WELL?

AJ: Absolutely. In fact, there are a number of reasons why e-government initiatives are using Linux. Cost is very important - as a government, you're faced with the challenge of providing more (additional e-government applications) without increasing taxes. Linux has definitely helped here - for example, the Regione Lazio regional government, which includes Rome, was able to repurpose an existing IBM zSeries system with Linux and WebSphere to provide its new e-government Web site. And in Brazil, the government is using low-cost Linux PCs to extend access to the Internet to a wider cross-section of society.

However there's also something deeper here. Linux gives you freedom and choice. And that's especially important to governments - they're not locked into hardware from one software vendor or one architecture. Since Linux source code is freely available, they can examine it for security backdoors - and have their own nationals provide support. Linux gives governments control over their own destiny.

WEBSPHERE JOURNAL: HOW DOES LINUX ADOPTION IN WESTERN EUROPE COMPARE WITH NORTH AMERICA? DO YOU SEE OTHER REGIONS MOVING TOWARD LINUX AS WELL?

AJ: It's both ahead and behind! Or rather, it varies from country to country in Western Europe. Germany, for example, has been an early adopter of Linux - perhaps partly due to the local SuSE Linux distributor being based there. And we're seeing rapid adoption in the Nordics, Italy, France, the UK, and so on.

But the countries where we are seeing Linux moving especially fast are the emerging economies - China, India, Russia, Central Europe, Latin America. They aren't encumbered by the past - and they have a large number of very bright programmers and engineers coming out of their universities all skilled in Linux. Their governments have also seen how Linux can enable them to build their local IT ecosystems - and so help develop their economies.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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