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IBM squishes systems software into new business unit

Making programs play nice with each other

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As is usually the case at IBM, the official convergence is often announced long after various product lines were already well on their way toward a confluence behind the scenes. And so it is with a new unit of Big Blue's Systems and Technology Group, which put all of its operating systems and hypervisor virtualization software under the control of one group back in early September, but is just talking about it now.

The Systems Software division within STG now has control of all of IBM's own operating systems and hypervisors. It is being tasked with bringing commonality of features as well as ensuring the compatibility of the company's z/OS, z/VSE, and z/TPF operating systems on mainframes, its AIX and i operating systems on Power iron, the company's interactions with Microsoft regarding Windows and the Linux community, PowerVM and z/VM hypervisors for Power and mainframe systems and the Systems Director management tools that got their start on IBM's BladeCenter blade servers and now span all of its hardware platforms.

Helene Armitage was tapped to be general manager of the Systems Software unit, and reports directly to Rod Adkins. Adkins was recently named senior vice president and general manager of STG after the departure of Bob Moffat, who has been caught up in an insider trading scandal.

Armitage is a hard-core Unix techie and was once in charge of defining the multiprocessing and security releases for Unix System V, when it was under the control of AT&T's Bell Labs. (That lab is, of course, where Unix and its C compiler were created.) Armitage went to work for Unix International, a standards body representing one of the two Unix camps, and eventually moved to Tandem Computers. They made the Unix-based NonStop fault tolerant clusters that are now part of Hewlett-Packard's lineup.

Armitage joined Big Blue in 1993 and was responsible for creating a five-year development roadmap for AIX. In 1995, she was made director of IBM's WebSphere and Object Technology products and ported the code to IBM's AIX, OS/400, and OS/390 platforms from their Windows base.

She did a stint as chief architect for Global Technology Services, working on SOA strategies that spanned IBM's various groups and eventually rose to the level of vice president and chief technology officer at GTS. Most recently, Armitage was in charge of STG's system software development and services lab.

In her new role, Armitage is being tasked to whip IBM's systems software lines into shape. That means getting their technology, licensing terms, pricing and packaging to be a little more consistent than they currently are. IBM has figured out it needs to be a little more consistent and a lot easier to deal with if it wants to sell systems software, which, by the way, is still an important differentiator. All the iron in the world is a pile of rust waiting to happen until systems software makes it come alive.

The Systems Software unit has also tapped Dexter Henderson, vice president of development at STG, to be its vice president and business line executive. This is IBMspeak for the person who manages the portfolio of operating systems and hypervisors (those made by IBM and those made by others) that run on IBM systems. They would also put together the product roadmaps to mesh all of these platforms so they are providing reasonably coherent, and yet differentiated, capabilities.

Inna Kuznetsova, who was formerly worldwide director of Linux strategy, is now vice president of sales and marketing for the Systems Software unit. Sid Chatterjee, who has worked in research positions at Big Blue and who was director of the Austin Research Laboratory down in Texas (where a lot of Power techs and AIX comes from), is now vice president of strategy and partnerships for Systems Software. Chatterjee will be looking at cross-platform initiatives and opportunities to partner with or acquire software companies to add to the Systems Software portfolio.

Now it is time for IBM to get serious and buy Red Hat before Oracle does. In a pinch, snapping up Citrix Systems and Novell would also do. ®

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