IBM takes control of Arabised Linux

IBM is assuming a lead role in the Arabisation of Linux. Big Blue’s Technical Competency Centre, based in Cairo, has been working on localising the open source OS and applications for the last 18 months.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  October 14, 2001

IBM is assuming a lead role in the Arabisation of Linux. Big Blue’s Technical Competency Centre, based in Cairo, has been working on localising the open source OS and applications for the last 18 months.

“We have been looking at Arabising different parts of the operating system and some applications,” says Dr. Ahmed Tantawy, technical director IBM, Middle East, Egypt & Pakistan.

“We’re currently looking to extend Arabic support across the whole WebSphere product range,” he adds.

Regardless of its early localisation work, Dr. Ahmed Tantawy stresses that IBM isn’t looking to ‘own’ Arabic Linux. “We are taking a leadership role, but we don’t own this project. We’re just trying to coordinate regional efforts,” he says.

IBM’s project management currently focuses on information sharing across different development groups around the region to ensure that standards are maintained.

“A technical workshop that we hosted in Cairo last year showed that there was a lot of duplication between projects,” says Dr. Tantawy “We’re ensuring that the same approach is taken by all organisations.”

However, despite the much touted strategic, financial and technical benefits of deploying the Unix-like operating system, Linux has still to gain the confidence of regional IT managers and corporate decision makers.

“The Linux business in the region isn’t that large,” admits Dr. Tantawy. “But it is growing.”

Once again, Big Blue is seeking to tackle the situation with a concerted campaign to raise Linux’s local profile. Dr. Tantawy reports that there is “great interest,” locally.

“People don’t see Linux running on machines, but the situation is changing as we bring Linux closer to the technical people in the region,” he adds.

Although successful Arabisation is critical if Linux systems are to enter the mainstream, services and education are also going to be vital.

IBM’s local office has already been heavily promoting Linux services and skills to customers and channel partners both in the UAE and Egypt.
The Technical Competency Centre in Cairo is currently being used as a ‘hub’ of IBM’s Linux skills. From there, skilled human resources are distributed across the region.

The volume of skills available at the competency centre is also growing rapidly says Dr. Tanatawy.

“We have been establishing Linux skills around the region,” comments Dr. Tantawy. “In terms of services the centre in Egypt is capable of developing Arabic Linux applications for customers… and there is an active Linux programme that is in place in some universities.

If large organisations within the region are interested in migrating towards Linux we can certainly do this,” he adds. GO TO STAND: C3-1

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