IBM's Linux investment signals move into cloud and big data market

Scott Reeves looks at a recent announcement by IBM of a USD $1billion investment in Linux and Open Source on Power Systems.

Last week, IBM made an announcement relating to further investment in Linux technology. This investment is for $1billion (USD) and has some key components. The two main components are the establishment of a client centre in Montpellier, France, similar to existing centres in New York, Beijing, and Austin. The second part is further investment in Linux on Power Systems.

Brad McCredie (the Vice President of Power Development) made the announcement at LinuxCon 2013. A significant part of the investment is to enable easily scalable and flexible server infrastructure: “Open, customizable and designed from the ground up to handle big data and cloud workloads” as McCredie puts it.

Key planks of the investment are the client centres. These centres allow developers and other technical professionals access to various Linux Power Systems technologies. Additionally, the centres enable access to IBM subject matter experts and provide facilities that enable optimisation of applications. They also provide facilities that will aid in the timely deployment of applications to market. Figure A shows the new client centre in Montpellier.

Figure A


The Linuxon Power development cloud is another initiative announced by IBM. This is to allow developers to utilise the cloud to rapidly prototype applications for use on Power Systems and other IBM platforms.

In commenting on the investment, Jim Zemlin (Executive Director of the Linux Foundation) says, “The last time IBM committed $1B to Linux, it helped start a flurry of innovation that has never slowed.” (The last time Jim refers to is in 2000.) Jim continues: “IBM’s continued investments in Linux for Power Systems is welcomed by the Linux community.”

IBM is betting heavily on Power Systems as the future path to growth. This will further fuel growth in Linux and associated applications. Investment in Linux on Power Systems is likely to have a flow-on effect for x86 systems. 

This announcement follows on from previous announcements by IBM on Power Systems and x86 servers. IBM is clearly positioning to take advantage of a burgeoning big data and cloud market. This is a positive move, as IBM's traditional business model of using managed services as a revenue stream is under pressure (as are other more traditional managed service providers) from cloud providers that can offer services at a far lower price than IBM. The use of Power Systems for cloud and big data computing should assist IBM to gain traction in a market where service providers do not necessarily care about what vendor kit the services run on.