IBM name calling at LinuxWorld

'We're the first and still the best'

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

IBM is playing a game of "who backed Linux first", by branding a slew of big-name rivals "Johnny come latelys" to the open source operating system.

The normally reserved computing and services giant yesterday used the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, California, to underline its own Linux credentials, emphasizing its support since early 2000.

In a move possibly to divert attention from job losses and distance IBM from the growing cohorts of Linux backers, Global Services vice president and group executive Douglas Elix came out fighting in an early morning keynote speech.

Elix stressed he was the fourth IBM executive to address LinuxWorld since January 2000, a time when IBM's database, application server and server hardware rivals shunned the operating system.

"Two years ago, being on this stage was very lonely. We were the only commercial supporter on Linux," Elix said. "Despite the Johnny-come-latelys, we were first and are still the best."

Backing the assertion that IBM was best, Elix listed world-wide customers working with IBM migrating to Linux. These include financial institutions, retailers, telecoms companies and airlines. He also claimed IBM is the largest user of Linux.

He singled out Sun Microsystems Inc for particular ridicule. Sun chief executive Scott McNealy announced on Tuesday the company's LX50 Linux server on Intel in conjunction with an almost zealous support of the Free Software Group's Linux Standard Base (LSB).

Before jumping on board, Sun had called Linux a "bath tub of code," Elix reminded delegates.

He also made a dig at McNealy who said on Tuesday you couldn't "down-load a server". Sun believes it can make money on Linux through server and hardware sales, but IBM in May launched a Linux Virtual Service, charging customers for storage, processor and network capacity.

The service means customers rent server services online according to need, rather than buy new equipment. "You can down-load a server," Elix quipped.

Elix also took a shot at Oracle Corp, who - along with Dell Computer Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co - were silent on Linux two-years ago. These companies are now among the operating systems' most vocal champions offering hardware, driver or technical support.

Speaking just hours before a LinuxWorld keynote speech by Oracle's chief executive Larry Ellison, which is expected to be adversarial and highly partisan, Elix launched a pre-emptive strike.

Elix defended the performance of IBM's DB2 database and WebSphere application server on Linux. IBM competes in both databases and application servers with Oracle. "For the record we perform very well thank-you. That's just in case Larry wants to say something," Elix said.

IBM's web services partner Microsoft didn't escape, either. Microsoft has in two years run the gamut of response to Linux and open source - ranging from initial denigration to outright admission that they pose possibly the biggest challenge to Windows.

"Microsoft began calling it a cancer, a threat to intellectual property and the American way," he said. "Yesterday I saw Microsoft's booth in the convention center and had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming," he said.

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