Monday, March 1, 2004

Raise the Red Flag: WebSphere goes to China

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

By David Gewirtz

Technology sometimes makes for strange bedfellows. Such is most definitely the case when you look at IBM's new support for the WebSphere platform on Red Flag Linux.

Raising the Red Flag

If you're not familar with this particular "distro," it's not surprising. Red Flag Linux is the official distribution for the government of the Peoples' Republic of China. Red Flag Linux was created in part because the Chinese government is reputedly deeply uncomfortable with Microsoft's massive domination of the operating system market in their country.

One of the concerns China has with Microsoft's operating systems is that they can't see inside the code. Frankly, it makes a lot of sense for a government to be concerned with running their systems (especially national security-related systems) under a closed operating system from a foreign country. An article by Doc Searls in the Linux Journal stated:

The purpose of Red Flag was to reduce domination of the Chinese computer market by Microsoft's Windows operating systems. The best way to do that, was to require "full transparency in terms of underlying code", said Matei Mihalca, Head of Internet Research, Asia-Pacific at Merrill-Lynch. (Interesting noun, transparency. A little different than "open" and "free". I have a feeling we'll be hearing more of it.)

Apparently, this particular Linux distribution has growing desktop support, and is becoming more widely available within China. Now, with the support of WebSphere on Red Flag, we're seeing more and more inroads into this new distribution.

IBM's support

According to IBM, WebSphere support for Red Flag is expected to increase the adoption of Linux operating system and Linux growth in the China market. WebSphere will support Red Flag's high end server platform, Linux Advanced Server 4.0, and will offer technical support to its users.

WebSphere is the latest IBM software brand to support the Red Flag Linux platform, following close on the heels of a similar announcement in September 2003 for IBM's DB2 Universal Database -- Express, IBM's database software targeted at small-and medium-sized businesses.

"IBM is happy to be working with Red Flag, China's leading vendor of Linux. We will be able to take advantage of leading technologies of both companies for better e-business solutions for our customers", said Dan Powers, Vice President, WebSphere Software, IBM Software Group, Asia-Pacific.

Zhao Xiaoliang, Deputy President of Red Flag, said, "Customers want more usability, reliability, stability and flexibility in Linux solutions. It is a reflection of market demand in an e-business era. We will satisfy such demand by working with IBM which is the worldwide leader of middleware software. We believe that this cooperation will deliver a booming domestic market for Linux based applications."