IBM sees growing Linux programmer community

This month, IBM's Linux efforts will reach a milestone as it registers the 100,000th developer working with IBM software to create Linux-based applications, Big Blue's Software Development Group announced.

Every month IBM tracks an average of 2,000 developers who register to build applications for the software. And, on a monthly basis, those developers create an estimated 750 new Linux-based applications that run on IBM software.

IBM has gathered all these metrics based on registrations for its Linux Speed-start program, said Adam Jollans, Linux strategy manager for the IBM Software Group. When developers register a Linux application with Big Blue, they even get a free T-shirt, he said.

But as much as developers love free T-shirts that's not what's driving the trend that Jollans is seeing in Linux development. Developers, particularly in ISV shops, are attracted to Linux because customers using Intel-based servers are exercising choices in operating systems, he said. And they are trying to market their applications to both the Windows and Linux worlds.

"Typically ISVs aren't just doing Linux," Jollans said. "They're doing both Windows and Linux. What they're trying to do is reach the maximum number of customers for their application at the minimum cost."

The developers working on applications for the dual use with Linux and Windows have a choice of programming languages and platforms, with Java and C++ being favorites, explained Jollans, who was a programmer himself before becoming an IBM executive.

"C++ is an option," he said. "That's available on Windows and Linux. Java is obviously a good option that will run on both Windows and Linux. The Eclipse platform that provides a plug-able framework for developers helps you to very easily do this cross-platform development."

When it comes to what platform to develop on, Jollans said, he believes developers who believe "real programmers don't do command lines" are increasingly drawn to Eclipse and the more Unix-like capabilities of Linux.

"In the past, if you wanted to get as much performance as you can for low cost and a graphical user interface, you'd tend to develop on Windows," he said. "If you wanted the heat-seeking power, you'd do that on Unix. What you've got with Linux, [is that] you're able to combine those two worlds. And Eclipse and the tools on Eclipse provide the interactive development environment. Plus, you've got a Unix-like operating system underneath that. Think about the difference between what you can do on a Windows command line, which isn't much really, compared to what you can do with a Unix shell, which has an immense amount of power."

While Microsoft dominates the GUI desktop application world, Jollans, who is obviously not unbiased, believes a change is coming there as well.

"We're seeing Linux moving from the edge of network servers to use in business applications," he said, noting that server applications were where Linux got its foothold in the market. "So what we're seeing is [that Linux development] tends to be the server applications, which matches the adoption of Linux, which is primarily on the server. Although we are starting to see indications of desktop adoption."

The new wave of Linux development includes applications that "span all major industries, including government, finance, retail, automotive and manufacturing," according to a Big Blue spokesperson. Specifically, IBM claims its Linux developer community is working in all sizes of businesses building applications for e-commerce, payroll, inventory tracking, CRM, small business accounting, financial analysis software and even "pattern discovery in genome sequences."

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About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.


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