Interesting take on IBM and Linux in IBM is in a Pickle (Again). Given this is a significant Sun guy talking, this might even be mistaken as Sun’s point of view (don’t take that last literally).

I do think Jonathon has a point - but I suspect he is a little off target.

On a semi-related subject, I have been playing with different Linux distributions again. Had to - the Redhat 7.3 box died I was using for the SMB domain controlller (with roaming profiles) and file server.

  • Installed Fedora core 2 (the latest) on the box meant to be the new shared server. This was a mixed bag - some things went very well, and some things were extremely frustrating. The Redhat startup scripts are a continuing royal pain to deal with, as even when I know exactly what I need to do, puzzling out the tangled mess of scripts run at startup can take days before I can find where to plug in my changes. Shell scripts are a useful tool, but the performance freak in my nature looks at the endless startup scripts written by Redhat and wants to run away screaming. Running up2date chewed up pretty much an entire day, as I had to limit the updates to a few items at a time to prevent up2date from hanging.
  • Installed Gentoo Linux on the fastest box in the house (I have delusions of doing my Windows development in a VMware session on a Linux box). There is something quite satisfying in compiling for my hardware with exactly the options what I want want. On the other hand I have not finished - X and Gnome are compiled but not yet configured. I really like the notion of compiling exactly for my hardware and configuration - and the “emerge” feature in Gentoo is quite impressive - though my “free” time is a little too finite.
  • Installed Xandros Linux on a slower box (a mere 800Mhz CPU) after reading a recommendation on the web. The install was slick and went well. There was trouble once the desktop came up as for some reason the system would go completely non-responsive every few seconds.
  • Installed Debian in place of Xandros. The Debian “netinst” install is not as flashy (no GUI) but is running well (nice to have a KVM switch at times like this :)).

How does this relate to IBM, Sun, and Linux? Simple - there are too many Linux distributions, and it is easy to create a new Linux distribution. IBM can use the Suse distribution, or they can create their own. IBM could produce their own distribution, or could adopt a family of distributions. Do you need a near-stock installation for a small number of machines? If so IBM could put in and maintain Redhat, Fedora, Suse, or Debian. Do you want to squeeze every once of performance out of a large homogeneous collection of servers? If so IBM could use Gentoo to build a customized distribution exactly for your hardware and needs.

What is the point of all this? Redhat is not Microsoft. Linux cannot be made into a proprietary product. IBM has choices with Linux that were not possible with Microsoft. Customers don’t generally care which exact Linux distribution is installed on their machines. They do care about service. They do care if their applications run and run well. Otherwise if IBM promises support at a reasonable price, they should be perfectly happy with whatever IBM chooses to install.

Jonathon has a point - but it may not be the one he intended.