% fortune -ae paul murphy

Ok, who got the Billion Dollars?

Away back in December of 2000 IBM's Lou Gerstner announced that IBM planned to spend a billion dollars on Linux. Great news then, but where did it go? There's no IBM Linux distribution, not many of their nickels went to the people behind the key technologies IBM relies on to make Linux work including Apache, mySQL, OpenOffice, and SAMBA. Their web sites offer Red Hat Linux for $799 or more, but I don't see the new Fedora Foundation getting any part of that billion bucks.

It's not going to hardware either: their hurricane chipset is designed for Windows on Xeon, not Linux. Instead it's Sun, not IBM, that's about to release a wave of AMD based products using a chipset and board design specifically tailored to boost Linux (and Solaris x86) throughput.

So where did the money go? Consider this from an interview Robert McMillan did with IBM's Jim Stallings just after the latter became responsible for IBM's Linux initiative in April of 2003:

I'd like to ask you a few things about IBM's Linux Technology Center. You have about 250 people working there. Can you tell me exactly what they're doing with their time? Are they helping customers or developing the kernel, or doing other work?

Stallings: They're making contributions. Their full time job is making contributions to the kernel. That's it. They don't have another job sweeping the floor or working on Websphere or anything like that. Another way to look at it is, IBM is making a real physical contribution to the open source community, both in terms of what we're doing with our products, but also what we're doing with the kernel. And these people are the ones who work on the kernel full time.

That's 250 people, many of them presumably experienced kernel level Unix developers, working on the kernel for over three years now. Sounds impressive, but what have they been doing? Has anyone seen results remotely commensurate with that level of effort?

Then too, 250 people, full time, seems like a big number, but actually only accounts for about thirty million a year -leaving almost $900 million unaccounted for.

So where did it go? Did you get it? I know I didn't.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.