Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for Linux Clusters and IBM G5 servers
On September 13th, IBM introduced a new Power5 server tuned for Linux. Contrary to Harvard Research Group's belief that a transition will occur from RISC to Intel, IBM seems to be betting on RISC again. They may be right, the PowerPC could help them capture market share in the fastest growing sector of the technology market.
On August 27th, O'Grady's Powerpage reported delays in Apple's ability to deliver its own Xserve, iMac, G5 server and desktop computers. The delays reported by Apple has revolved around IBM's inability to deliver the G5 chip.
If IBM has trouble meeting their deliveries to Apple, you might ask why they are heavily marketing their own new OpenPower series. The answer goes back last year's win by Lockheed Martin and the Navy's sonar solution. High Performance Linux server deployment has increased significantly. IBM has been on the hunt for wins in this space and has taken internal criticism for losing to what management considers inferior competitors.
If Lockheed Martin had to buy Apple Xserves and tear them out of their chassis to get to the IBM G4 chip, that indicates a preference for the chip not the Apple server. IBM can now offer hardware platforms that have a specific form-factor, high density processors and Linux.
That provides IBM with an edge in a market catering to more than nuclear submarines. As mentioned above, military aircraft also use sonar arrays. Department of Energy laboratories use large clusters as do places like Los Alamos. Emergency Response Network Systems such as those used to manage storms such as the three hurricanes in Florida.
In spite of the wins Apple has touted in the HPC space, their director of HPC resigned because he did not believe Apple was serious about the market. If Apple has more interest in equipping BMW's with iPods, perhaps IBM doesn't feel that bad about meeting their own needs first.
On their IBM eServer OpenPower 720 web page, IBM states that the 720 is available with SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 9 (SLES9) only. It is not supported by any of the variants of Red Hat Linux.
In today's government environment, Red Hat has captured a commanding market share. Much of Red Hat's success exists because of partners like HP, Dell and Oracle. Large government contractors, including Lockheed Martin, consider themselves Red Hat shops.
If IBM intends to penetrate the government HPC sector, they will need to partner with Red Hat. But, will Red Hat choose to provide a version for the PowerPC? Much depends on the real commitment to the Linux Standards Base and time. Meanwhile, a small Linux distributor has picked up a significant amount of business because they ported to the PowerPC.
Tom Adelstein lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Yvonne, and works as a Linux and open-source software consultant locally and nationally. He's the co-author of the upcoming book Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop, published by O'Reilly and Associates. Tom has written numerous articles on Linux technical and marketing issues as a guest editor for a variety of publications. His latest venture has him working as the webmaster of JDSHelp.org
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