IBM hopes to Power cloud, analytics with $1 billion Linux investment

IBM will fund development of Linux applications and expansion of a Linux cloud service

By , IDG News Service |  Hardware

IBM will invest US$1 billion to promote Linux development over the next five years as it tries to adapt Power mainframes and servers to handle cloud and big data applications in distributed computing environments.

The investment, expected to be announced at the LinuxCon conference in New Orleans this week, will fund Linux application development programs for IBM's Power servers and also be used to expand a cloud service where developers can write and test applications for Power servers before deployment. The investment will also facilitate software development around IBM's new Power8 chips, which will go into servers next year.

IBM is also adding a Power Systems Linux Center in Montpellier, France, where developers will get access to Power chip and server technologies to develop and deploy Linux applications. The company already has similar centers in Beijing, New York and Austin, Texas.

Linux is the OS of choice for cloud and big data deployments in data centers, said Doug Balog, general manager of Power Systems at IBM.

"As we look at our current clients, with Linux I want to leverage what they have developed for years and bring these new ... capabilities," Balog said.

The investment will be applied to Linux development by clients, developers and students, though IBM did not elaborate on how the funds will be made available. IBM expects code contributions in applications such as OpenStack, a distributed computing environment that deals with processing of large data sets over a network of servers.

IBM's homegrown Power hardware is best known through the Linux-based Watson supercomputer, which outperformed humans in the televised game show "Jeopardy." Power chips have been traditionally used for demanding applications such as financial transaction processing, but IBM believes the chips are flexible enough to handle cloud computing and analytics through features that quickly gather, manage and analyze data.

IBM also hopes to rope in more Linux developers to remain competitive against companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell, whose x86 servers are widely used in cloud and analytics deployments. IBM also makes x86 servers, but believes Power can transcend from mainframes into general-purpose servers.

IBM has already invested millions of dollars in Linux development over more than a decade. The latest announcement follows IBM's decision last month to open up its Power chip architecture and license it to third parties that want to build servers and components based on the processor. IBM hopes Linux will make Power8 attractive to third parties that want to build non-x86 servers.

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