IBM Claims NT-to-Linux Migration Successes

Business partners are making money from Linux, Big Blue tells conference attendees.

At the Open Source Business Conference, held this week in San Francisco, IBM unveiled several new Linux-related programs and marketing initiatives, trumpeting one over-arching theme: Business partners can and are making money from Linux. As proof, Big Blue cited the success of its NT-to-Linux migration program, claiming that business partners have already moved several thousand former NT servers over to Linux.

It may seem like a no-brainer to many, but Scott Handy, vice-president of worldwide Linux strategy for IBM, says that many conference attendees found it a provocative proposition. “I’m here presenting about how you can make money [selling Linux solutions], and I can’t tell you how many people had questions about it. There was just a lot of interest,” he comments.

Over the last 12 months, IBM has kicked its Linux -related sales efforts up a notch, announcing a “Leaders for Linux” program that pays business partners up to $5,000 in co-marketing incentives. ““We now have more than 200 business partners that we call ‘Leaders for Linux,’ which means that they have repeatable solutions that they sell in the Linux space, and at least one customer reference [that they’ve sold them to],” Handy explains.

This week, IBM announced an expansion of Leaders for Linux, introducing the concept of a so-called “value network” of business partners, along with additional co-marketing incentives for qualifying business partners. “With the additional incentives that we’re announcing, they can get $7,500 if they have a repeatable solution on Linux for Power [IBM’s RISC architecture], and with these value networks, they can get $10,000 in co-marketing if they partner with another partner in marketing a repeatable solution to the SMB space,” says Handy.

According to IBM, “value networks” describe some combination of distributors, resellers, consultants, and integrators who collaborate to help SMBs implement repeatable Linux solutions.

In addition to Leaders for Linux, IBM has also introduced a directed SAP sales effort for Linux, along with, of course, its celebrated NT-to-Linux migration initiative. SAP currently claims about 2,000 installations of its software on Linux, 700 of which have involved, to one degree or another, IBM.

“Most of those installations are predating this program,” Handy concedes, “but the new thing that we announced at PartnerWorld was a special program around business partners.” Although SAP has significant penetration in enterprise accounts, it hasn’t forged inroads into the SMB space, Handy claims, “so this is an effort to encourage [business partners] to develop and market repeatable solutions for SAP on Linux.”

NT-to-Linux Migration Program Lifts Off

Earlier this year, IBM Corp. announced a new variation on a long-established theme: the migration program.

The twist, of course, was that Big Blue promised to help customers move away from Windows NT 4.0—itself the destination platform of many a migration effort in days past—to Linux. Since then, Handy says, “Over 50,000 [NT Servers] have already migrated to Linux, and that’s pretty tremendous traction for a program that’s only about six weeks old.” He stresses that Big Blue’s estimate is a conservative one.

When IBM announced the program, Handy—citing IDC figures—speculated that as many as two million NT servers could be in play, and suggested that IBM expected to compete for about half of them. Handy now touts a revised (but only slightly less audacious) estimate. “At current course and speed, we’re going to hit the IDC estimates that say of those two million NT servers, 760,000 will retire, and half will go to Linux and half will go to Windows,” he claims.

For the record, that’s 620,000 servers.

Why is IBM so optimistic? Handy describes customers that have toughed it out on NT 4.0—for which Microsoft will officially terminate support on December 31, 2004—as the “last of the laggards,” and says that they’ve put off moving to Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003 for a variety of reasons.

“People who are still on NT have been resisting moving up to Microsoft’s path pretty hard, and one of the most common explanations we’re hearing is resistance to Active Directory,” he comments. “So one very popular [migration] is just moving to Samba for file and print [services]. It’s such an easy migration that I’m surprised people didn’t do that right away.”

Handy claims that Big Blue’s business partners have also had success moving Exchange customers to Notes/Domino running on Linux. Elsewhere, he adds, business partners have performed “about a dozen or so” SQL Server to DB2 migrations. Not many customers have flown the coop for Apache, however. “IIS is a little tougher, because people may have moved stuff to ASP,” he acknowledges.

The backbone of IBM’s NT-to-Linux migration program is, of course, its business partners, through which the program’s standard services—file, print, Web, and application serving, security, systems and network management, collaboration, and database applications – are sold.

Since the program’s announcement several weeks ago, Handy says, the number of participating partners has more than doubled. “We had 20 partners at first, and we’ve more than doubled that to 45 partners, so that’s been pretty exciting,” he comments, claiming that IBM’s business partners have received an “unprecedented” amount of interest in the new program: “I’ve been with IBM for 20 years and I usually don’t get much response from a lot of these broad-based programs, but I’ve had a lot of reps [who have just joined the program] telling me that their customers saw it and wanted to learn more about it.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.