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After opening up its Power chips to bit fiddlers through an ARM-style licensee model, IBM is pouring $1bn into Linux development on the architecture.

The $1bn commitment to Linux on Power was announced by IBM on Tuesday at the Linux conference in New Orleans, and follows Big Blue letting licensees fiddle with Power chips through the OpenPower Consortium that was revealed in August.

The one-two punch combination of letting major tech firms such as Google and Nvidia license and pick apart the chips, and chucking money toward development of Linux and Linux-based applications running on top of Power, can be seen as IBM's attempt to create a niche for the Power architecture that is defensible in an age where Intel/AMD x86 and ARM systems are set to rule servers, computers, and mobile devices.

Though IBM makes a ton of money off of its server business – the company was ranked the number-one server shipper by revenue by the Excel-cultists at Gartner in the second quarter of 2013 – the number of servers it ships is far less than companies like HP and Dell, and its traditional UNIX market is stagnating.

"The era of big data calls for a new approach to IT systems; one that is open, customizable, and designed from the ground up to handle big data and cloud workloads," IBM veep of power development Brad McCredie said in a canned statement.

As part of its $1bn investment, IBM has created a "Power Systems Linux Center" in Montpelier, France, where software developers will build various fashionable apps (eg., big data! cloud! mobile! social business computing!) on Linux and POWER7+ tech.

The company will also grow its Power Systems cloud, which lets developers remotely access Power, AIX, and IBM i gear on which to prototype, build, port, and test Linux apps.

"The $1 billion will be applied to Power Systems product research, design, and development, and will fund a variety of ecosystem skills and enablement programs for clients, developers, business partners, entrepreneurs, academics and students," an IBM spokesman told El Reg on Tuesday. "This spans Power Systems hardware technologies, helping ISVs bring more applications to the Power platform – especially for big data and cloud computing – and marketing and sales programs."

At the time of writing, IBM had not responded to further requests for information about the investment. The development money comes at a time that IBM is hugging other open source technologies, such as the MongoDB NoSQL database and the VMware-backed Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service cloud.

Given the mammoth scale of IBM's organization, and its huge headcount, we would note that a wedge of that $1bn could come from moving money from Column A of Big Blue's existing Power development team to the new Column B. ®

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