IBM Corp’s Linux marketing strategy manager has played down the opportunities for Linux on the desktop despite naming it as one of the four technology triggers currently pushing the adoption of the open source operating system.
Adam Jollans, worldwide Linux marketing strategy manager for Armonk, New York-based IBM’s software group, said that the desktop ranked alongside horizontal and vertical scaling, and the emerging Linux software stack, as technology drivers behind Linux adoption. He also noted, however, that desktop Linux remains a niche market.
Being a technology trigger doesn’t mean adoption, but it enables adoption, Jollans told ComputerWire. This is still a niche market. We’re seeing increasing interest and we expect it to grow but it’s not where our primary interest is.
2004 has been tipped in some circles as the year that Linux will make a breakthrough into mainstream enterprise desktop environments, and the likes of Red Hat Inc, Novell Inc’s SuSE and Ximian businesses, and Sun Microsystems Inc are encouraging that with new business-oriented functionality.
Jollans admitted that the graphical Gnome and KDE user interfaces, the Mozilla browser, and Sun’s StarOffice productivity software were attracting more attention to desktop Linux but said IBM was taking a more cautious approach based on its experience of the adoption of Linux on servers.
At the server side adoption started off on file and print servers via IT staff before CIOs caught on to the potential cost savings and started promoting Linux for more mission critical applications. The desktop adoption will also come in stages, he said.
Jollans also identified three niche areas where interest is currently being shown in Linux being deployed on the desktop, however: as a Unix workstation replacement; on browser-based thin clients at banks and retail sites; and for cross-platform application development.
Another key potential market comes from government institutions looking to make cost savings and promote flexibility, he added. While government deployments and test projects around the world have shown the potential for desktop Linux Jollans played down the likelihood of IBM making a major play for the desktop Linux market in the near future.
He said that for customers showing an interest in Linux on the desktop IBM was typically responding to each project on a case by case basis through its Global Services business. It’s an area we are watching very closely. In terms of a tipping point we don’t see that at the moment, he added.
IBM sees far more potential for Linux expanding its presence on the server side in 2004, especially with the delivery of variants based on version 2.6 of the kernel. Linux is getting better at a fast rate, he said. It’s not at the moment in some areas as good as commercial Unix but it’s growing at a faster rate.
What we see with the next version is vertical scaling to 8- or 16-way which enables a new set of tasks and takes you into ERP systems and databases. This is what the 2.6 kernel brings, he added. It also improves security and reliability but the biggest thing is SMP scaling.
That brings the potential for Linux to be deployed on a wider variety of server hardware than low-level Intel processor-based machines, and Jollans repeated recent IBM predictions about the potential for Linux on its Power processor-based i- and pSeries servers.
The next enabler we’re expecting to happen is Linux on a wide variety of hardware, he said. If you’re looking at total system scalability you need the operating system and the hardware to scale as well. In terms of the pSeries we’re starting to see customers who want more power for Linux applications.
This article is based on material originally published by ComputerWire