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Talk to the IBM Linux Hackers 245

We've all heard plenty about IBM's investment in Linux, but we don't hear much from -- or about -- the actual Linux developers at IBM. This interview is not with one person, but with a number of IBM Linux people spearheaded by Dave Hansen, who volunteered to help us with this interview. Of the group responding to your questions, Dave says, "There are more people, but the majority of the group's skills are represented. No surprise that we'll have our responses reviewed before we send them back to you, but we'll try to expedite that.
"A little background: The group's experience is pretty broad. Most members were Sequent employees who worked on Dynix/PTX before IBM acquired Sequent (we are still mostly based in Beaverton, OR). Not everyone was with Sequent; Matt Dobson and Dave Hansen came into the group last summer, right out of college. A few of our Austin colleagues are long time IBM employees who worked on the AIX kernel before moving to Linux. Ask about anything from the rmap VM, to PTX's crashdump facilities, to life in Portland :) As usual, please ask only one question per post. We'll forward 10 of the highest moderated questions to Dave, and run all the answers, verbatim, as soon as we get them back.
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Talk to the IBM Linux Hackers

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  • by morbid ( 4258 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:34PM (#3596151) Journal
    Now that Linux has been ported to run on high-end machines under virtualization, when will we see a kernel tuned for (e.g.) scalability to 64-128 processors natively?
  • OS Blending (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 2names ( 531755 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:35PM (#3596158)
    Will IBM try to blend aspects of AIX and Linux together, or will the 2 development paths remain discreet?
    • Re:OS Blending (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 2Bits ( 167227 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:43PM (#3596220)
      As Linux developers inside IBM, do you get to see the AIX source code? If you do, are you allowed to "steal" some ideas from AIX and implement them in Linux? If not, why not, and what's the IBM official line?
      • Re:OS Blending (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I'm a developer for AIX. I can tell you there is NO sharing of source between the two areas. AIX is the old proprietary world of software engineering. The licenses are your typical "if you copy that floppy you're a BAD BAD person...". I know people in the LTC and none of them have read access to the AIX source repository. IBM is as paranoid of the GPL as Microsoft is. Since I do device driver work, I'm not even allowed to look at the Linux kernel source.

        There's a pretty large (virtual) fence between the AIX and Linux hackers. That doesn't stop IBM from trying to get AIXisms into Linux (read JFS and powerpc optimizations).

        If the economy wasn't so damn bad I'd have transferred over to the LTC long ago...

        (posting anonymously to keep my job...)
        • This is really funny considering that the GPL allows people to learn from the source code, and are allowed to use that knowledge for whatever purposes they wish.
    • Re:OS Blending (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spudnic ( 32107 )
      We already see IBM bringing Linux compatibility into AIX with the current release AIX 5L []. The L apparently stands for the "Linux Affinity" part of the system that they have plastered all over the site. What part, if any, does this team play in this? If it is another group, do you assist each other, hang out together, or do you even know who they are?

    • Re:OS Blending (Score:5, Interesting)

      by delcielo ( 217760 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @03:15PM (#3596885) Journal
      Along the same lines as the parent. Will IBM be porting anything like SMIT to linux? A leaner overall admin utility is desparately needed IMHO.
  • gnome? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:36PM (#3596169) Journal
    ok, this isn't directly related to the linux kernel, but are there any plans to replace CDE with GNOME (like Sun) or other free desktop environment?
  • Features! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by coryboehne ( 244614 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:37PM (#3596181)
    What *new* feature(s) are you most excited about developing?
  • compiler (Score:3, Interesting)

    by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:38PM (#3596186) Journal
    What compiler do you use for the kernel - gcc or xlc?
  • from AIX to Linux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:38PM (#3596189) Homepage Journal
    Care to tell us if there is anything in Linux kernel or other GNU programs that can profit from your previous AIX experience? How big a paradigm shift was it for you to move from AIX to Linux? Were you pleasantly surprised, unpleasantly surprised or not surprised at all with what you saw in Linux kernel? Did you learn anything in Linux that you would like to see implemented in AIX?
  • Women in computing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Telastyn ( 206146 )
    For the women in the group:

    What are your opinions regarding the shrinking number of women in the industry? (actually I believe the numbers are rising again in schools)

    • What are your opinions regarding the shrinking number of women in the industry? (actually I believe the numbers are rising again in schools)

      I haven't heard any statistics about any recent changes, but I think if the number of women in this industry is shrinking, it's good evidence that women are smarter than men. They're seeing that engineering is a crappy, under-paid, overly stressful, and exceedingly unstable profession, and are heading for greener pastures. It took me five years of college and a few years in the workforce to figure this out for myself; my hat's off to others who see this sooner.

      Now if the number of women in school for engineering is rising, that's a sign of two possible things: 1) younger women are stupider (and judging from what I see of high-school kids these days, I'm starting to think just this of all kids), or 2) they're getting an engineering degree for its prestige or value in going into some other type of profession later, and have no plans to become corporate drones for EE companies.
  • by astrashe ( 7452 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:41PM (#3596209) Journal
    Linux seems to be drifiting, very slightly and relatively slowly now, towards a place where a couple of companies exert a kind of defacto control over it.

    The licenses are still open, but as a practical matter, most of the core development is being done by corporate people that are concentrated in a few companies like RedHat, and to a lesser extent, IBM.

    Do we low end users have cause to worry about this? Does IBM worry about the control that a company like RedHat has over IBM's Linux initiative? And is it really possible, as a pratical matter, for technology as complex as GCC to be forked by volunteers?

    • Debian, Mandrake, Slackware, etc.
      Large companies can create their own distributions, in fact even other large organizations can create their own distributions (NSA for example is working on a high security distribution.) IBM or RedHat have market for their distributions and it does not mean that there is no market for Debian.
    • > And is it really possible, as a pratical matter, for technology as complex as GCC to be forked by volunteers?

      What's the problem here? I've "forked" a number of C compilers in the past. I found myself working on projects that needed a cross-compiler, so I got one
      and recompiled it for the new machine. In the process, I invariably had to make a number of changes. Thus, to aid in debugging, I added a builtin caller() function to several compilers that acted pretty much like perl's function of that name. I've also added in a number of hooks to make the code interoperate with debuggers. This should all qualify as a "fork", since my code was never folded back into the original compiler. And yes, I did such things all by myself.

      Granted, GNU makes things that are bigger and more complex than most others. But I don't think that forking it would be much of a job for one person who knows a bit about compilers. If GNU didn't want something useful folded back in, the result could well be a fork.

  • Our state may be rainy and gray, but we have things like the IBM team and a big chunk of Intel that make us shine above the silicon valley...we are the silicon forest. :)
    • And just why is this a TROLL? From the Jargon files: troll 1. v.,n. To utter a posting ...designed to attract predictable responses or flames; or, the post itself. Predictable responses? Don't know of any that would be predictable to my post. Flamewar? hardly my intent. My post was just an expression of pride in my region and the techie aspect we have to offer...nothing more. of course, i am now feeding the troll that modded me a troll...the vicious cycle continues.
  • Filesystems (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Arallok ( 555634 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:43PM (#3596223)
    Is there any work on the file system limitations or software RAID device restrictions (I was told no more than 12 devices per RAID setup)? What changes are being made.

    My work is particularly interested in filesystems > 64 TB and RAID with > 20 devices.
  • by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:43PM (#3596224) Journal
    IBM will be using linux to help sell their hardware. Other companies have tried this (VA Linux, which owns Slashdot, once had linux hackers on their payroll). Obviously, IBMs hardware is in a different league as an x86 clone, but do you have any thoughts on Open Source business models and their validity? Once the kernel is running smoothly, will you be disposable since the "Open Source community" can continue development for free?
    • I can partly answer this one, and I'm not one of the Linux developers at IBM.

      IBM's model is only partly to use Linux to sell their hardware. Today's IBM is more of a service company than a hardware company. Their move towards Linux is more because they think (and rightfully so) that they can make money with *service* for Linux, not because Linux will sell a ton of hardware boxes. IBM knows that hardware (except for the highest-end stuff) becomes a commodity over time with little to no margin. Service, however, allows the company to leverage its brand and experience to charge a premium over the local VAR, and thus create a reasonable margin.

      As for IBM's opinion of Open Source business models and their validity, I certainly hope they have a lot of belief in the business model of giving away the software and charging for service... otherwise, they're one confused company.

  • Linux? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by quasi_steller ( 539538 ) <[Benjamin.Cutler] [at] []> on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:43PM (#3596225)
    Why does IBM feel that Linux is important to IBM, and how important does IBM feel Linux is to the future of computing in general?
    • Wouldn't this be a better question for IBM's marketing department, or business/technology strategist types? I'm sure the IBM Linux developers are bright folks, but I'd be surprised if they're in a position to comment on IBM's strategic vision for Linux (let along IBM-as-a-whole's estimation of the "importance of Linux to the future of computing in general").

      No offense, but I'd rather see questions that the interviewees are well suited to answer.

  • by korpiq ( 8532 ) <-.@ko r p i q . i k i . fi> on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:44PM (#3596230) Homepage

    Is Linus accepting your changes well? How directly do you submit patches, and what are your experiences on the overall Linux kernel development style?
  • Marketing? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by GMontag ( 42283 )
    Are your Marketing folks going to continue with the "Warm Dead Chickens" marketing approach, like OS2, or are they going to get a little flashier like that other OS?
  • linux on thinkpads (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Olinator ( 412652 ) <olc+sdot@hex.cs.umas[ ]du ['s.e' in gap]> on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:46PM (#3596247) Homepage
    IMHO, IBM makes some of the best mobile hardware out there -- one of the professors I support raves about his ThinkPad 600, that went with him into the Israeli desert for several months and is still running strong, no service required -- but the linux support for that hardware has been, um, erratic at best. Yes, we've been occasionally been able to purchase the odd model with linux preinstalled (usually it's *more* expensive than the comparable model with MicroSoft preinstalled, grr) but an awful lot of the hardware (mini-pci modems, &etc) is rather difficult to drive with a penguin behind the wheel. Why does IBM's linux enthusiasm fade so quickly at the small (physical) end of the hardware scale? Is there momentum underway to change this?
    • by vluther ( 5638 )
      Just to clarify, you mean for the older laptops right ? I have had the pleasure of owning an a20p, a22p, and now an a31P, all of them were freed from windows within the first day that I got them. Apart from the modem, everything worked flawlessly.

      This new a31p has a built in wireless card, that was the only thing that needed work, and once I put 2.5.13 on it, even that card worked fine. I used the stock redhat 7.3 CD to install everything. Even X.

      The video card on this laptop is an ATI Mobility Fire GL 7800 (64MB video card), it's supposed to be bad-ass, only Dell ships with a 64MB nvidia to compete with this a31 model btw.

      Apart from the modem, I think IBM's laptops are the greatest mobile machines to install Linux on.

      But aside from that, I agree with the final question. About this time last year, you could find Linux pre-installed on the website, hell it was even advertised .. thinkpads with Linux. Was the market really that low ? Or was there pressure from outside forces to sell only MS Laptops ?.
    • I have the ThinkPad 600e. I installed RedHat 7.3 on it, and it works wonderfully. X came up without issue. I run wireless on it at work and home.

      Oh, sound was an issue, but IBM's website tells you how to make it work. It uses the cs4232 driver. The device does not init correctly on boot for some reason, so if you remove then remodprobe the module it works fine.

      I'm unable to suspend to disk, but I didn't set up a partition for that. Haven't seen if Windows will still do it after I repartitioned.

      I'm looking forward to the suspend to RAM functionality of the 2.5 kernel.

      I've been trying to get the serial port to work today without much success. I believe I have the tools required.

      The MWave soft modem driver was released just a bit ago (source and all I believe), I have downloaded the driver, but haven't tried it yet.

      I've gotten DVD working great with mplayer (be sure to use the FFmpeg library). On a P2-400MHz!

      All in all I'm very pleased! I got mine for a song on Ebay.
    • I think part of the probem is that IBM is huge. The left hand doesn't know what the right is doing. The way I understand IBM's structure is that it's not one large, centrally-managed company, but rather a bunch of loosely grouped companies. The VP of mid-range servers might have a woody for Linux, but that doesn't mean the VP of thinkpads has to do anything with Linux.

      What I'd like to know is exactly who in IBM is pushing Linux and what divisions they oversee. The whole s390 Linux thing took me completely by surprise as I had no idea the big iron IBM folks had any interest in Linux; from what I understand, this started as a bunch of s390 engineers messing about with a VM during their lunch hour, but now it seems like it's getting attention from above (which is very cool, but somewhat unexpected for those of us who've been in Corporate America for too long).

      I can't imagine an ebullience of Linux enthusiasm overtaking all ranks of IBM, so I'm guessing there's someone higher-up who's pushing Linux. I'd like to know who these people are and what parts of IBM this affects and does not affect.

      Anyway, it'd be better if someone on slashdot with inside info could answer this question. I don't want to bore these engineers with politics (I'm looking forward to a hardcore technical interview, not some fluff that I can find on cnet or salon).

  • Linux On The Desktop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Iguanaphobic ( 31670 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:48PM (#3596259)
    Do you see any place for Linux on the desktop? If so, will you be able to fend off the PC hardware group better than the OS/2 group did in the past?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Large organizations such as IBM could very instrumental in moving Linux to the desktop. As an AS/400 developer, I would like to know if IBM sees a future in the Linux desktop -- eg. will Client Access be ported??
  • by pgpckt ( 312866 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:48PM (#3596261) Homepage Journal

    As many people here, I am a huge Linux fan, but I am so much so that I am trying to figure out how to get into the professional Linux world when I graduate.

    I attend Clemson University [] and am in the Computer Information System (CS + business) program [] (and doubled in Political Science []). My goal is to become a Linux sys admin, or perhaps some other Linux guru type job. The work that IBM is doing with Linux is also very appealing to me.

    So, how did you get your job, and what would you recommend as the path to follow for us geeks just getting started in the professional world as to how to get into Linux? How can I become as entrenched with Linux as the professionals at IBM? I have had two internships (not with IBM, nor with Linux, but with other CS stuff), but how can I get an entry-level job in a Linux intensive environment like IBM? How can said job lead me into a career where I can be deeply involved in the Linux world?

    • Check out IBM's Extreme Blue [] Internship program. It's a great program and it gives students a chance to work with Linux and other Open Source technologies (as you can probably tell, I am participating in this program this summer so I am evanglizing a bit ;-))
    • My goal is to become a Linux sys admin

      Aim higher. You don't typically come to IBM to become a sysadmin. I strongly suggest making yourself known to the e-Business Infrastructure group []. Come here if you want to always be at the forefront of "professional grade Linux".

      but how can I get an entry-level job in a Linux intensive environment like IBM?

      I was not a college hire, but we get a fresh new batch every year. I had 7 years of varied IT experience (6 of Linux; most of it personal). Even then it took 3 years to get hired. In '97, e-biz was not ready to embrace Linux, but by 2000 they knew it was the future and were grabbing up as many practitioners as they could find. Now the market is coming at us full bore and it feels a lot like the moments leading up to the first time Jodie Foster heard the transmissions in Contact.

      In e-Business we use the most appropriate tool for the job, so it helps to understand [] the 3-tier application infrastructure model, and why IBM releases Linux versions of nearly all of its software on all hardware platforms.
  • distros? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by elykyllek ( 543092 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:48PM (#3596265) Homepage
    I would love to know what distros are popular on your desktops, at work and at home.

    Also explaining why you chose that distrobution would be great.

    • Re:distros? (Score:2, Informative)

      by NighthawkFoo ( 16928 )
      Well, the research group at Watson has a Redhat 7.1/7.2 based distribution called the "Client for eBusiness" that's available to IBM'ers to install on their machines. It's not really supported, per se, but most people that would install it wouldn't call the help desk anyway. It's got various tweaks to make it more friendly to the infrastructure here.

      I personally use SuSE 8.0 Professional on my workstation (I'm typing on it right now, in fact). We have our own internal mirrors that have the latest Linux distributions on them - that's where I got my copy from.

      Most people use the Client for eBusiness, but I'm more comfortable with SuSE.
  • by Consul ( 119169 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:49PM (#3596278) Journal
    When you were starting out as a group, did you encounter a lot of friction and resistance from middle and/or upper management about your wanting to work on Open Source projects for IBM? If so, what did you do to overcome the objections and become the team you are now? I think the answer to this would help a lot of other people in other companies get mainstream acceptance of the idea of OSS in corporate environments.
  • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:50PM (#3596280)

    What features do you find linux most lacking in?

    (If we don't examine our weaknesses, we will be crippled)
  • not laid off? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's widely known that IBM is laying off Linux specialists and indeed laid off many in Portland just last week (which was widely discussed in the local Linux user-group discussions, so it's not exactly a secret). Considering that IBM laid off a bunch of Linux folks in Portland last week, are we sure this interview group is still employed? And can you comment on IBM's commitment to Linux when it is in fact laying off Linux specialists nationwide?
    • Re:not laid off? (Score:2, Informative)

      by lindsley ( 194412 )
      All of the people listed are still employed by IBM, working on Linux, and reading slashdot (including me). (Well, ok, not sure if all of them read slashdot :)

      Yes, the layoffs did not completely miss the Linux folks in Beaverton (or elsewhere) but I think IBM's commitment to Linux is underscored by how it was minimized.
  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:51PM (#3596290) Homepage
    Solaris 9 is getting great reviews []. Between the strengths of the traditional open source community and IBM's resources, do you see a point in the next several years where you expect Linux to surpass Solaris in all of its core strengths? Or does Solaris have some unique values which will allow Sun to continue to position itself to advantage, at least for some applications? Please answer this as a technical rather than marketing question.
  • by Neck_of_the_Woods ( 305788 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:53PM (#3596309) Journal

    Most everyone in the world would say that Linux/Unix is not as user friendly as say OSX and Windows/add suffix here.

    With that in mind do you guys see this complexity as a bonus or a henderance to all *nixs moving forward, and please let us know why you feel this way.
  • FreeBSD (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Now that IBM has endorsed the Free Source movement, how about working on venerable BSD line, upon which AIX is based? It's much closer to the IBM way of doing things and should be more familiar, as well as being a techically strong base on which to do future work.
  • If anybody wants to see two 1024-node clusters based on Linux and built by IBM, and lives in or near Austria, go to the Linuxwochen [] ("Linux weeks").
    IBM was so kind to support this Linux event, and therefore they present really cool stuff, namely two Linux-based 1024-node clusters.
  • by Ashurbanipal ( 578639 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:56PM (#3596335)
    You're right, I'm not suprised that your responses have to be vetted by management. But, I'd love to know what guidelines IBM has for hackers' interaction with the rest of the GNU/Linux/Internet community. Are you allowed to criticise IBM management, or other IBM products, for example?
  • OS/2 Developers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by reaper20 ( 23396 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:56PM (#3596337) Homepage
    I'm one of the few people who really enjoyed the OS/2 desktop and it's features. Have any of the former OS/2 developers been contributing to Linux?

    Specifically, the user interface and accessability people - OS/2 was very polished - does IBM see a benefit by offering this expertise to the GNOME/KDE projects?

    If so, how does this tie into IBM's vision of Linux of the desktop, if you have one? :)
  • Older IBM Machines (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Universal Nerd ( 579391 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:56PM (#3596339)
    Here at my job we have quite a few older IBM machines (PPC RISC IBM 7248 and 7006) and I was searching for a Linux distribution that I could install them - I found a few for the 7248s but nothing for the 7006. I'm planning on building a cluster out the old iron, they may not be fast but they are semi-retired and there are a lot of them.

    My question is this, along with bringing linux to the newer machines, are there plans to support the older machines?
  • Being that IBM builds it own proprietary systems, platforms, and components, does it focus most of its development for Linux to run on IBM gear? Technologies, however advanced, like the Power4 processor or ChipKill, aren't exactly the kind of systems that I would guess the Linux "masses" actively develop and work on.
  • Linux on AS/400 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:58PM (#3596348) Homepage
    About a year ago it was announced on the Linux for AS/400 web page [] that "OS/400 V5R1 will support the first version of Linux for AS/400's." I haven't heard much since then, and there doesn't seem to be much information about Linux on AS/400s on the IBM web page. Can you comment about if, and how, porting of Linux to AS/400 machines is developing? Thanks.
  • by xerofud ( 555327 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @01:58PM (#3596350)
    I was quite disappointed recently to learn that IBM has discontinued support for the Linux ViaVoice SDK.

    What can IBM tell us about the company's future plans for voice recognition under Linux, and in particular, if IBM found supporting the ViaVoice SDK economically unviable, is there any chance that they could open source the code so that volunteers could continue to maintain/develop it?

    As evidence of the open source community's interest in the SDK, check out the projects in Sourceforge that rely on it. I just hope that IBM doesn't let the Linux ViaVoice SDK go the way of Blender !!!

    • I have been checking the IBM website, hoping for a ViaVoice update. Voice dictation is the most important app for me and many others. This is disappointing news.

      I would think with staroffice/openoffice now out, it would be a good time for IBM to release an update to this desktop-productivity product (ViaVoice). Any offices that convert to openoffice/staroffice will need to have a dictation product for its disabled employees (guaranteed sales).
  • Does IBM have plans, or hopes, to make Linux as powerful on the pSeries platform as AIX is? Accomplishing that would likely take some significant kernel patches which may not be accepted into the official source tree, so would IBM then simply maintain a set of patches for pSeries use?

    Martin McGreal
    St Louis, MO
  • The business units promoting Linux recognize the advantages of the Open Source development model, yet IBM still produces proprietary software. Does this indicate that support for OSS is simply a marketing position, or is it that IBM believes OSS is good for some types of development but not others? If it's the latter, what types of development are viewed as not conducive to OSS, and why?
  • by scherrey ( 13000 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:05PM (#3596394) Homepage
    IBM's C/Set C++ compiler (becoming Visual Age C++) was one of the best C++ implementations of its time for both performance and standards compliance. Now the product's been discontinued for Windows & OS/2 but still exists for AIX & S/390. Is there any hope for Linux support for this compiler?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've read a great deal about IBM shifting from the old-bad-guy to new-good-guy with their commitment to Linux. So far, the community seems fairly convinced that IBM's intentions are honest and that they are in fact bringing a lot of credibility and respect to open source and Linux. However, historically, IBM attacked the unified UNIX which GNU/Linux is in some ways becoming. As the developers, you are on the front line of IBM's test as a Linux-friendly force. I'd like to ask what efforts you are making to keep this the case.
  • Lin Vs Win (Score:2, Interesting)

    by coryboehne ( 244614 )
    What's everyone's stance on the eternal Windows versus Linux battle? Are you firmly entrenched in the everything Linux standpoint, or more towards the Windows for idiots and Linux for power users standpoint? In addition to this do you feel that linux will soon be capable of capturing a significant amount of marketshare in the personal desktop market segment, or do you feel that the place for Linux is in server applications?
  • How are the different flavors (Redhat [], SuSE [], etc.) of Linux affecting IBM's development efforts? What are the teams' favorite(s)? Why?

  • Which came first? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by programic ( 139404 )
    Did IBMs embrace for Java spawn the emphasis on Linux, or was it the other way around.

    Or are the two entirely unrelated?
  • by dazdaz ( 77833 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:22PM (#3596503)
    With all of this investment in Linux, does IBM put it's money where it's PR is and utilise Linux on the desktop and servers worldwide?
  • When will CATIA on Linux see daylight?
    The only shops that i know of that are going to V5 are changing to NT from AIX.
  • AMD's Opteron (Hammer) will integrate Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) features. IBM has had significant NUMA design experience through its own products and acquisitions.

    Does IBM plan any major NUMA efforts for Linux? Is there any synergy with NUMA-Q? How will any NUMA efforts impact IBM's Itanium commitments? Any possibility that we might see an Opteron port of AIX 5L?

    And, perhaps most importantly, if AMD's NUMA efforts prove fruitful, might IBM be forced to de-emphasize it to protect its competing product lines? After all, AIX only recently became "partitionable", while Solaris has had this feature for some time...

  • Is Linux support part of IBM's professional services and if so can this be explained in some more detail. I'm sure there are many qualified people who would and could make a lifelong career here, but IBM being the huge monolith it is, makes it difficult to know whose door to knock on.
  • by ddkilzer ( 79953 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:25PM (#3596519)
    What steps are you taking (if any) to evangelize Linux on "low-end" PowerPC systems such as the Apple Power Macintosh line? Is there any chance of seeing low-end PowerPC-based motherboards with out-of-the-box Linux support from IBM in the near future?
  • All I have to say is that you are missing someone on your team.... Daniel Robbins. I am sure you all know who that is. As for Portland, I know t well after the turbulent years at Beserkeley.
    All I have to say is keep up the good work, and make Robbins an offer for chrissssss Sake.
  • IA64 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sabre ( 79070 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:27PM (#3596537) Homepage
    Before IBM downsized [] the former Sequent hardware division, Sequent was actively involved in IA64 platform design, and continues to be active in many open source IA64 projects...

    In general, the Itanium has seen quite poor adoption rates and even Intel/HP admit that their initial public silicon is really only fit for software developers and platform work (due to low performance, and altready established players in the 64-bit field).

    Do you think that IPF64 line will see any kind of broad industry adoption? Will it become just like rest of the (non-embedded) processor architectures designed since the x86 -- constantly fighting for 5% of the market? Do you think the AMD Hammer architecture will be a meaningful player in the field?

    Since your group is a key player in the Linux on IA64 and GCC for IA64 projects, can you give us any status information about recent developments in the project since the IA-64 Summit []?


    -Chris []

  • by ThomasMis ( 316423 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:28PM (#3596546) Homepage
    While meeting with a fellow software consultant recently, I queried him on his plans to expand his business. Specifically, I was curious to know what information infrastruture he plans to grow around. He returned a puzzled look. I had asked if he had considered Linux as a possible server platform, to handle internal source code control, email, and file shares. I suddenly diminished in his eyes. He responded as if I had just asked him if he wanted to buy used Yugo. To him, Linux isn't business worthy... isn't a real stable, capable OS... and worse yet... a threat to the software industry!

    Linux needs positive marketing. So my question is, what can you do to champion Linux with IBM's giant huge marketing machine? Not every IT person in the world reads Slashdot (I'd venture to say less than 1%), but a large number of IT people read MS marketing. So the perception most IT people have about Linux is through a Microsoft lens.
  • 390 code (Score:5, Interesting)

    by buss_error ( 142273 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:28PM (#3596548) Homepage Journal
    What were the major porting problems the 390? Do many people use it? How has management accepted Linux in the 390 world?
  • by denisbergeron ( 197036 ) <> on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:29PM (#3596561)
    I want to konw when IBM will begin to support Linux at an OS for it-self instead like an tools for selling hardware.

    IBM never release any desktop tools for Linux. The Lotus SmartSuite never hit the Linux Desktop, nor Notes. By doing this, IBM it's the only company with Microsoft do not port they office suite to Linux.

    The IBM's Lexmark company never provide any driver for the home /SOHO printer (the only Lexmark printer driver was marked experimental at linuxprinting). By doing this, IBM it's the only company in the world do not offer support for there printer to the Linux Home users.

    IBM also dicontinue the support for ViaVoice under Linux!

    IBM also doesn't support they desktop and notebook hardware under Linux or other free OS! IBM even take the FreeBSD partition number to use it for it's "suppend to disk" on the bios of ThinkPad making them unusable for FreeBSD !

    I really think that's IBM only take the Linux part they need now, and don't look at the future.

    The grid computing it's right there at our door, and already desktop begin to replace mainframe in batch processing. We are now using lost cpu cycle do process job under the Windows and Linux desktop. If IBM doesn't investigate this oppurtunity (and the Linux Desktop) in the neer future, IBM will just don't get the next wave and will begin to clash !
    • Sorry !
      My question is :
      To you think IBM will support Linux in an broad manner instead of only on there aging Mainframe ?

      Linux it's not only the kernel, it also the GNU movement and it's also a lot of individual who program it, and program application for it and use it.

      When a company claim to support Linux and in fact they only use it to promote they older and desuet platform, it's a really bad move for my opinion.
  • IBM Linux? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sc00p18 ( 536811 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:35PM (#3596609)
    Does IBM have any plans to create its own Linux distribution? Doing so would certainly generate a great deal of publicity for IBM's Linux strategy, as well as serve to make Linux a household name. What are your thoughts on this?
    • My thoughts on that are that I already retired my Micrsosoft mouse and got an IBM mouse. It's a lot cooler, and price worth.

      IBM Lindows would make my day :)
  • With high-end pc servers closing the reliability and performance gap, what advantage is their to moving to Linux for S/390?

    A example, widely sited, states that great cost savings can be achieved by consolidating 100's if not 1000's of pc servers. This only works, if the servers being replaced are under extremely low work loads. Many argue that a much greater savings could be achieved in consolidating serives on existing x86 systems.

    The only example that've heard that makes any sense, is using linux to extend the cabilities of Mainframe OS's (i.e. using linux, to run apache to create on-line reports, replacing printouts).
  • by worldwideweber ( 116531 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:38PM (#3596629) Homepage Journal
    There are a few debates raging in linux kernel development these days. I was just interested in hearing IBM's take on a few of these subjects:

    [1] Rik van Riel VM (RMAP) or Andrea Arcangeli VM?
    [2] Is a new kernel build system needed for the linux kernel?
    [3] Modules/InitRAMFS or regular ol' monolithic kernel?
    [4] Which journaling file system does IBM see becoming the de facto journaling file system for Linux? In other words, what's so cool about JFS :)?

    I apologize for sneaking in a few too many questions.
  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @02:44PM (#3596674) Journal
    From the brief bios, and Sequent pedigree, it looks like there is a lot of focus on high-end features like NUMA, async I/O and the like.

    Other commercial organizations, notably SGI, are also putting forth effort in those areas. There is actually quite a bit of overlap.

    Since these are "open source" projects, do you collaborate with your traditional "enemies" such as SGI and Sun on Linux? What is your management's attitude towards that type of collaboration? If not, do you "look" at the work the others are doing in comparison to what you are doing?

  • Layoffs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bobdehnhardt ( 18286 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @03:04PM (#3596803)
    How will IBM's recently announced layoff affect the development effort around Linux? Will resources shift away from development/support for a free "product", and be added to revenue-generating projects?
  • by forged ( 206127 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @03:09PM (#3596832) Homepage Journal
    What you have done for the IBM-specific (and strategic) technologies is great, but how will your work benefit the average PC user?
    In other words, what are the areas of the Kernel where IBM invested resources that x86-based machines will benefit from, in terms of performance, scalability, robustness, etc.?
  • What has your experience been like at IBM? Have you found the environment better/worse then previous jobs/positions? For example, if anyone is an ex-dotcommie, his/her specific experience. Does IBM deserve it's reputation among geeks and others?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @03:24PM (#3596960)

    Why isn't IBM making more of an effort to recruit developers directly from the Linux community, as opposed to hiring people who have very little if any working familliarity with the platform?

    Speaking from experience (I worked at Big Blue for about 2 years), the typical new-hire at IBM knows very little about Unix and other core technologies that form the foundation of your company, and its products...I can name several that didn't even know what a network card was, who gained full-time positions as regulars within the company while top-level engineers and other knowledgable employees were getting pink slipped for cost reductions.

    There are employees at IBM who are just now learning what a network card is, while thousands of seasoned Linux developers go unemployed.

    What does IBM plan to do about the experience gap within the company?

    • Why isn't IBM making more of an effort to recruit developers directly from the Linux community, as opposed to hiring people who have very little if any working familliarity with the platform?

      I don't think your question is very fair. IBM has been very active in recruiting people from the Linux community including the Extreme Blue [] program which recruits college students who are very active in the Open Source community and gives them a chance to work on Open Source software at IBM. I also know of a number of top open source developers who were hired by IBM to work on important technologies.

      There's always a need for entry level people and I don't think it's fair to ask IBM not to hire these folks. If they didn't, you would simply complain that they don't hire entry level people and therefore, aren't given anyone a chance to develop marketable skills.
  • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @03:27PM (#3596986)
    At my job we use AIX boxes as file and application servers at remote sites.

    There are two reasons for this, sysback and the lvm.

    Sysback makes it braindead-simple for a technician in a remote site to restore a server. Pop a tape into the drive, turn the machine on and walk away.

    Combined with the great logical volume manager and smit, AIX is probaly the easiest os to deploy.

    Are there any plans to deploy these tools to the linux platform. This would make it alot easier to move large customers, particularly government to IBM/Linux solutions.
  • history of linux? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sniggly ( 216454 )
    What is the history of linux at IBM? Was there a grass roots thing amongst developers and/or did senior management suddenly see the light, was it a mixture of these? It's surprised me and many others how suddenly and how thoroughly IBM has become penguinized. So a background story from within would be very interesting to read. Thanks.
  • I don't think I am alone when I say that IMHO near-perfect, generalized MS Office compatibility would be the biggest boost Linux could receive in the desktop front. Everybody knows what IBM has done to help Linux succeed in the server market, from multi-million ad campaigns to huge contributions on the development effort. Could IBM consider developing a standardized library and API to MS Office file handling, which would enable any Linux app to transparently read/write those formats? This is the sort of thing which unpaid hackers have problems developing (witness the uncoordinated efforts of GNOME, OpenOffice and KDE coders), but would be near-trivial to a professional dev team such as IBM's.
  • IBMer question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chrysrobyn ( 106763 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @04:28PM (#3597486)

    As an IBMer with a thinkpad, I'd like to ask a very straightforward, down to business question.

    When will I have Linux running on my Thinkpad, supporting my internal IBM needs?

    Seems to me that there will be some initial development cost, perhaps a bit of training, but in the end, a Linux machine would be more easily maintianed. Between exporting xterms, allowing support to telnet or ssh in and needing to be root to really screw stuff up, I think there's a great deal of leverage there. I've looked into the C4EB (Client for E-Business, for those not in IBM speak) stuff, but I can't find out how to run my Lotus 1-2-3, Wordpro, Freelance, etc. (including secure tunneling aka working from home) without kludging it. Certainly, it's fit for some needs, but my job places me in a less flexible position.

    My background: I'm a hardware engineer, been playing with Linux since Slackware 96 (in 1996) as a user and admin. I won't allow an unsupported distribution, like Debian or Slackware, to touch my machine, as so many IBM specific things make assumptions.

    How about a CD (or 4) that I could boot to that could 1) shrink my Win2k partition 2) set aside my hibernate partition so hibernating will stop blowing away my Linux partition 3) install Linux, Gnome or KDE, Wine and integrate Lotus 1-2-3, Wordpro and Freelance. Sure, I could do this on my own, investing the weeks or months that I had when I was a student, but I'm married now and my management won't support a hardware engineer playing with software on that level.

    I think it'd be sweet to be able to hit a shortcut that would export to a bot, signal a telnet or whatever, so an automated script could diagnose simple problems and queue for human review if necessary.

  • Are you folks hiring people in Beaverton/Portland to help work on your linux projects? If so, is there a more efficient way to reach the team recruiters directly rather than sending resumes into IBM's black hole?
  • by xiitone ( 152104 ) <xiitone&well,com> on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @04:35PM (#3597534) Homepage
    Now that IBM is rebulding their federal services
    groups, does IBM have any plans to work with Red Hat
    for A NIAP Common Criteria evaluation (making it hunky-dory, from a security perspective to use Linux.) How about FIPS 140-2 for the IBM-Linux crypto cards?
  • I'd heard that IBM was basically running Linux inside of an AIX VM, as opposed to directly on the hardware. Is this true, and if so, what do you have to watch out for in terms of performance tuning in order to deal with the vastly different set of latencies presented by a VM, rather than bare x86 metal?
  • I know that it wasn't you people that did it, but I have to give IBM major props for that ad. For those of you that haven't seen it, there are two guys in suits watching the IBM team play basketball. There's "Middleware", "Applications", and, of course, "Linux", a tall, lumbering, bear of a basketball player.

    One guy says to the other, "You know, that guy Linux doesn't get paid a cent for this"

    and the other guy says "No! Why does he do it then?"

    And the first guy says "Loves the game..."

    Well, that just about says it all. Thanks IBM.

  • by alext ( 29323 ) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @07:53PM (#3598853)
    IBM must have a particular interest in making Linux apps easily deployable across different hardware platforms (x86, PPC, S/390 etc.) But for many Linux users, downloading an x86 binary is much easier than building the app from scratch.

    DotNET will add a major cross-platform capability to Windows apps - there is a risk that this could leave Linux high and dry.

    Is there a specific IBM strategy addressing this problem, e.g.
    • Ensure C/C++ builds are available for each platform
    • Use IBM Java
    • See if Mono or DotGNU take off and adopt one of them
    • Something else?
  • What does one have to do to get one of these fine IBM Linux hackers to come speak at a LUG? :)


Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun