The increased focus on Linux raises questions about the future of AIX, but Balog said the Unix OS remains targeted at higher-end applications. The Linux investment could potentially bring the flexibility for existing Power-AIX infrastructures to handle new cloud and analytics workloads, Balog said. AIX and Linux are already cross-compatible at the virtualization and system management levels, so servers with the different operating systems can coexist in a data center.
"AIX is too important to my client base and long-term strategy," Balog said, adding that the company has billions of dollars invested in the OS, and will continue to invest in it.
Linux was the least important operating system to IBM on the Power architecture and it was treated as a stepchild, said Al Gillen, program vice president for system software research at IDC.
"What has changed is the Unix market has been in a nosedive and while IBM has successfully captured some significant share from competitors in this contracting market, it is still a declining business for IBM. As a result, the company has concluded that it needs to readjust its investment to reflect where the growth opportunity is [Linux], rather than where the growth opportunity used to be [Unix]," Gillen said in an email.
It's not clear where IBM's $1 billion investment will go, but the money could be applied to improve Linux on Power, development of hardware architecture, and porting kernel-based virtual machine to Power. However, the investment will not directly benefit the greater Linux community relying on x86 servers, Gillen said.
"That said, there also are likely to be other investments that IBM is making that do benefit the larger Linux community. For example, any work IBM does to increase the performance or scale of the base Linux operating system likely benefits all Linux users," Gillen said.
Hardware makers are focusing more on customizing software to take advantage of power, performance and instruction-set features on specific chips. Intel, which is a big contributor to Linux, offers a version of Hadoop for IT administrators who want scalability in their x86 server infrastructures to deal with large amounts of data. Oracle is customizing its database, cloud and other applications to work with Solaris OS and Sparc chips.