In general, big companies make big news and small companies make small news.
So, when IBM (Armonk, NY) announces that it is spending several billion dollars on a handful of initiatives, then end user companies have to take notice. The company has made several statements about the rosy future of its Global Services operations and also had a successful week at AIIM 2001 pushing its content management solution. More interesting, however, are Big Blue's plans to spend big bucks on three well-calculated moves that could shake up the IT industry.
IBM Eyes Up Oracle
IBM's first move came in late April when the computer giant announced that it was acquiring Informix Software in a $1 billion cash transaction deal. In addition to acquiring Informix' technology, IBM also picked up the software company's customer base. And, while $1 billion is a lot to most companies, it was a reasonable price for IBM that picked up valuable market share in the distributed database space. The acquisition was more than a subtle signal to Oracle that IBM is now gunning for the Redwood City, CA-based database giant. In fact, IBM's intentions were about as subtle as a kick in the shins as one executive was quoted as saying, "This is a clear shot across Oracle's bow."
Wooing The Open Source Community
In another move that is sure to affect IT organizations, IBM launched its "Peace, Love, Linux" campaign in an effort to convince open source users that Big Blue is committed to their cause. Linux, the free, open OS (operating system) developed by Linus Torvalds, is clearly gaining traction throughout the IT community. It hasn't been accepted to the point where Microsoft is sweating the successful release of its new OS, but the Linux movement continues to gain ground. Not only is IBM shipping more Linux-based servers than ever, Hewlett-Packard reports brisk sales of such servers as well. Clearly, Linux has progressed far beyond the stage of being a novelty. So, IBM's open source play seems like a sound move. However, it remains to be seen if the Linux community will back the IBM initiative. I'm betting that it will. IT departments that are wary of using Linux for critical applications will feel more comfortable with IBM backing the OS. At least, that's what they can relay to their bosses.
The Return Of HAL
Finally, IBM announced plans to spend several billion dollars over the next few years on what is internally called Project eLiza. Project eLiza is IBM's goal to develop a computer infrastructure that acts more like the human body than a compilation of silicon chips. In its final stages, Project eLiza will produce a computer infrastructure that will automatically recognize problems and make corrections without the assistance of administrators. It's very similar to how your body reacts when it encounters a foreign microbe. It attacks it and eliminates it without your knowledge. You occasionally get sick, but you an unaware of the thousands of other instances where your body simply does its job in keeping you healthy. Ideally, this type of self-managed network would overcome the shortage of IT professionals that companies are experiencing and will continue to experience in the foreseeable future. More complex systems, with fewer people to manage them - it seems like another low-risk gamble for IBM.
Big companies make big news. But, big companies have big bucks. Besides IBM, there are not many companies that could have pulled off one of these initiatives, let alone all three.
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at EdH@corrypub.com.