Editor’s Note: Following is an essay co-authored by Bob Sutor, vice president of open source and Linux for IBM, and Jean Staten Healy, director of cross-IBM Linux strategy for IBM. It describes the central place Linux plays in building a smarter planet, and builds on a presentation about the role of Linux in Smarter Systems, which the two IBM executives gave at the recent Red Hat Summit.
What do you think about when you read or hear the word “smart” when it is applied to computers? How about a supercomputer? If any machine is smart, a supercomputer is, right?. According to a study released by the University of California at Berkeley in May, 2010, 470 of the 500 fastest supercomputers in the world run Linux, the open source operating system. That’s 91%. Evidently the people who decided to use Linux for these computers were pretty smart too.
As we think about all the ways where we can work together to create a Smarter Planet, Linux has a very natural role. First, Linux runs on more kinds of hardware than any other operating system. So if we are talking about tying together disparate systems to deliver better, more accurate, and more predictive health care, Linux can power the hardware and software to maintain the information repositories, do the data mining, and perform the analytics. That is, Linux can help provide the intelligence we will need and expect in our complex and sophisticated 21st century systems.
Linux runs on the smallest devices all the way up to the fastest supercomputers, as noted above. Linux today powers smart phones, Netbooks, laptops, desktops, and servers in datacenters, but also home automation and many embedded systems. Linux will be at the heart of smart electrical grids that allow utilities to reduce waste, remotely manage and monitor use, and help reduce costs to consumers. Linux will increasingly be part of the instrumentation that provides the data we will use to tune and optimize not just our electrical grids, but also our water systems, supply chains, and factories, to name a few examples.
As the data is collected from the sensors, Linux can help ensure that it goes where it needs to go to do the most good. In order to reduce pollution, cars need to be inspected and kept off the roads until they are compliant with emission standards. Linux can power websites where citizens can pay fees and schedule inspection appointments in a low friction manner. Then once the inspections are complete, Linux systems can push the data to local and regional authorities, but also to repositories and software that measure not only compliance but perform data analysis. This will yield important information to further improve the system, and reduce pollution even more. Our systems need to be more interconnected, and Linux can help them be so.
Linux is global and supports many languages and locales. The tools needed to create a Smarter Planet must run in the heterogeneous environments that we have today. Linux is a big part of how we instrument, interconnect, and derive intelligence from the information around us. As we optimize the systems we have today and develop entirely new ones to solve problems in better ways, don’t be surprised to see Linux inside.
Dr. Robert S. Sutor: Vice President, Open Source and Linux, IBM Software Group
Jean Staten Healy: Director, Cross-IBM Linux Strategy, IBM Systems and Technology Group