IBM, Linux and SMEs

IBM looks to SMB sector for Linux love, writes InfoWorld:

Ahead of the Linuxworld Conference and Expo, which begins Tuesday in San Francisco, IBM Corp. is seeding the field with a collection of announcements that illustrate its momentum behind the open-source operating system. The company detailed Thursday new customers that have chosen to use Linux with its hardware and software. Nine customers being highlighted bring IBM’s tally of Linux followers to more than 4,600, the company said.

What is notable about the latest batch of converts is that some come from the small and medium-sized business (SMB) sector, a segment known for typically using Windows servers to run basic business, productivity and accounting applications.

Despite popular belief, “Linux is being used quite heavily by small and medium-sized business,” said Scott Handy, director of Linux software solutions for IBM. “We’ve been partnering with independent software vendors (ISVs) who call on the SMB market.”

Through partnerships with ISVs, IBM has been able to convince customers that its Linux-based xSeries servers, along with supporting applications such as its DB2 database software, can make for a viable alternative to Windows.

“Our initial search was for an accounting package that ran off of Linux,” said Jamey Russell, IT manager and proprietor of family-owned Westport River Winery.

After some investigating, the company decided to go with Accpac’s accounting software with DB2 on a server running Red Hat Inc.’s Linux operating system.

Adds InfoWorld about SMB market and competition with Windows:

The key to winning SMB customers will be making sure that the applications they use to run their key business functions are available for Linux, said Stacey Quandt, an industry analyst covering Linux and open source software for Giga Information Group Inc.

“The ISVs are a big part of the (operating system) ecosystem,” Quandt said. “There’s a lot of ISVs that IBM has been trying to pull into Linux to target SMBs.”

Historically, Microsoft has been a leader in the SMB space because so many accounting and small-business service applications have been designed for Windows.

“I’d say the vast majority of people building applications for SMBs are doing it on our platform,” said Peter Houston, senior director of Microsoft’s Windows server product management group, who will be representing Microsoft next week at its Linuxworld booth.

We need to take a similar strategy with enterprise applications. The core business apps have to be available on Linux. Initially, it could be through adaptors to existing applications for “readers” (since there will be 10x more readers than “writers”). Later, we need to be able to write back to the application, and finally, be able to replace the app itself. The key lies in being able to value-add by aggregating information from multiple different information sources from across the enterprise.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.