In his first 18 months as general manager of IBM's worldwide Linux team, Jim Stallings has seen dozens of corporate shops and governments around the world push Linux from the periphery to the heart of their IT strategies -- never a bad thing for job security when you have the word "Linux" in your title. But with the open source operating system now more firmly entrenched, the next challenge for Stallings and his team is to help Linux drive IBM's companywide On Demand initiative deeper into corporate accounts with one hand while fighting the ongoing server battle against Windows with the other.
An 18-year veteran of IBM before he left the company in 1996, Stallings worked in several capacities with Big Blue including that of vice president in charge of worldwide sales for the AS/400 division. Upon his return in 2002, Stallings served as a vice president in charge of IBM's integrated accounts division, and in January 2003, assumed his current position.
A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and former Marine captain, Stallings took time to sit down with InfoWorld Editor-at-Large Ed Scannell to discuss what roads he sees Linux traveling both in the United States and around the world.
IW: You have been running IBM's Linux operation for 18 months now. What have been the high points and low points along the way?
Stallings: I suppose I have some in both categories. What I am most struck by, both in the U.S. and outside, is the level of sophistication that governments and major users have around Linux. First, every one of them now has a Linux strategy in place, and they are mostly long-term strategies. They have gone from edge-of-network solutions to where they now have dedicated application development machines, Web services machines, and they are pushing right into the middle of the datacenter as fast as we can help them do that. I did not expect them to move at this speed 18 months ago. But it is not just the speed of adoption, but the size of the businesses doing so. IDC and Gartner recently came out and said Linux-based server shipments are approaching $1 billion a quarter in revenues.
IW: That is largely on servers, what about the desktop?
Stallings: Well I had made some predictions that it would mature at a much slower rate mostly because of the [lack] of applications. But with companies like Novell, which acquired SuSE and Ximian, and Red Hat now stepping up their [desktop] efforts, a lot of things are starting to play out faster than I thought they might.
IW: What do you think is the value-add Linux offers in on demand environments?