When you think of Open Source software and Linux, you probably think of legions of independent developers and scruffy enthusiasts scattered across the globe – pounding out code and annihilating bugs with the words “Linux Forever” and a Penguin tattooed on their forearms.
Sure, those people exist, but they’re being crowded out by serious IT professionals dressed in business casual.
According to a recent report released by the Linux Foundation, large, multinational, for-profit organizations are contributing significant financial and human resources to the cause. Participants include household names like IBM, Samsung, Texas Instruments and, for the first time, Microsoft.
The obvious question is “Why?”
Why would companies focused on profit invest in free and open source software? What is there to be gained? The answers depend on which company you’re looking at.
Microsoft: If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em
Microsoft once referred to Linux as a “cancer,” but in a complete reversal, last year it announced a four-year pact with the Suse Linux distribution. Due in part to widespread adoption of Linux server products coupled with increased usage of virtualization in large enterprises, Microsoft was forced to concede. Microsoft had to play nice with open source or risk losing customers.
IBM: A Matter of Dependence
The situation for IBM is a bit different. Though its reasons for liking Linux are also customer-driven, Big Blue’s big issue is competition with Microsoft. Relying on a competitor – one that comes with a costly price tag for their customers – just doesn’t sit well. Investing in Linux allows IBM to provide low-cost solution alternatives across all product lines that also minimize or eliminate Microsoft’s involvement. That makes Linux a win-win for IBM.