Subject: Re: The merger: a user's perspective
From: shapj@us.ibm.com
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 09:24:25 -0500

> ...Jonathan Shapiro at IBM (with IMHO somewhat
> better grounds) will be upset to hear you
> excluding their firms from the group with "partial
> corporate dedication" to free software

Ahh. My faith is restored -- it was starting to worry that no one would
take my name in vain this week :-)

I'm not really in close touch with the folks who are actually doing Linux
stuff or Apache stuff at IBM.  I spend much more time with the people who
are lobbying and educating within IBM about open source, and keeping them
aware of the growth and success of outside open source efforts (IBM is a
fast follower; I find that the most compelling argument is that there is an
established trend).  Collectively, I think we (the educators) are making
headway within the company, but as with anything else it is slow going.
IBM won't turn on a dime (ever).  At least for the moment, it seems
unlikely that IBM will ever abandon proprietary software completely.

It used to be that people resisted open source within the company because
they didn't understand how it could be economically viable. As a result,
they more or less scoffed at the idea. Today, I think things are a bit
different.  There is slowly spreading acceptance that Linux is here to stay
and that this presents opportunities to IBM.  A few projects within
research are proposing -- and being granted -- open source status. The
number is growing slowly but steadily; I'm hopeful that ours will
eventually be one of them (note: that is NOT a commitment).  Today, the
resistance is from people who are trying to figure out how to keep
middleware (which is where IBM derives a lot of its revenue one way or the
other) proprietary.  Fundamentally, such people don't understand that the
camel's nose is already in the tent.  That said, they *do* have a
legitemate question: how do you run a multibillion dollar company without
proprietary assets?  I understand the economics, but ultimately nobody
knows if this is possible, because nobody has done it.

An organization as big as IBM or Sun doesn't have opinions. They are simply
too big for concensus to exist in that fashion.  IBM is presently
supporting Linux and Apache (and probably a few other things), which I
think is good.

As to the Green Peace analogy, I think it's misguided. Consider that most
of the US paper manufacturers are now engaged in more responsible farming
and replanting. While they can and will improve further, they have come a
long way.  Things don't change overnight. But it isn't about organizations
like Green Peace beating them up.  It's about changes in economic
incentives accompanied by constructive education.  Paper companies farm
trees because there is no other means to sustain the economics of their
businesses, not because it's good for the environment.

Jonathan S. Shapiro, Ph. D.
Research Staff Member
IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
Email: shapj@us.ibm.com
Phone: +1 914 784 7085  (Tieline: 863)
Fax: +1 914 784 7595