Speaking at the Software Forum conference in San Francisco, IBM executives said there were some features in Linux that could push it past Unix for back-end computing. While they admit Linux still has a way to go before it can compete with the functions available on many flavours of Unix, IBM officials said that Linux could prove more cost effective and be a more user-friendly way to manage servers.
"We are happy and comfortable with the idea that Linux can become the successor not just for AIX but for all Unix operating systems," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive of the IBM Software Group.
IBM is looking to install Linux on everything from mainframe servers to embedded systems controlling functions on space-age refrigerators. The compact, stable nature of the operating system gives it unparalleled flexibility, IBM said.
In particular, IBM is embracing Linux as a way to help administrators with key server management tasks. For instance, if users want to consolidate their hardware infrastructure, they can create Linux partitions on mainframe servers, allowing them to access various applications all from one place. Users who want to expand server set ups into clustered environments can use Linux's scalability.
Linux's open source roots have helped it stay centred around standard industry protocols and make it flexible for communicating with other operating systems and applications, IBM executives said. This openness has pushed IBM to place Linux at the centre of its effort to build out global technology infrastructures.
"All types of servers can run on a common Unix operating system," Mills said. "What is not clear is if (the OS) will be Linux. It needs to continue to mature and become a more sophisticated system."
While IBM officials concede that Linux might not emerge as the operating system of the future, the company is ready to back it now with millions of dollars and as many developers as it can find. If these bets pay off, IBM may well send AIX packing.