Interview: Rob K Lamb

Rob K Lamb IBM’s worldwide director of Linux sales, came to Dubai recently to highlight the growth of what is becoming a phenomenally successful operating system.

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By  Paul Barthram Published  July 30, 2003

|~||~||~|CME: Linux is proving very successful globally—with Red Hat, IBM and Oracle jumping on board, is it fair to say its moved up a level?

Rob K Lamb: Exactly, and it has probably moved faster than any other computing technology we have seen to date. If you take something like Java, it probably took up to four or five years to move from computer hobbyists and the hierarchies of academia to something that is used in the commercial world for safe applications. Linux has gone through exactly that same evolution but in half the time.

CME: What has been your main aim in coming here to the Middle East?

Lamb: Firstly to understand what’s going on in the region, what the possibilities are for IBM and where IBM can help the region. There’s a phenomenal interest specifically in Linux, so it was good to come and talk to academia. In fact we’ve made a number of donations to universities to help them get up and running with Linux, hardware and software. In the commercial sector I’ve been talking with companies that are looking to embark upon Linux strategies or figure out how we can advance strategies that have already started.

CME: With the university implementations is there a specific strategy at work there?

Lamb: Yes in that the pull is really coming from them as opposed to us. They’re very interested in Linux because of the economics associated with it, it provides them with a platform that they can use for word processing capabilities, and standard administration. capabilities, they can also use it for teaching programming classes. So it’s very attractive to them and its very attractive to us because we can go in there as we are doing, donating hardware and software and the students come out not just with Linux skills but with IBM software skills as well.

CME: What sort of demand is there for Linux products in the region?

Lamb: It’s been phenomenal; it’s the fastest growing operating system in the region, across all areas, in private, in public, and in the academic sectors.

We’re quite proud to have the Standard Chartered bank as one of our customers. Their Internet banking systems are completely based on Linux. Their entire retail banking system is based on Linux.

We also have the Government of Bahrain. From a government standpoint, Bahrain is the first to make a major announcement and commitment to Linux. Now Bahrain has made the move I think others will follow suite.

CME: Have you been happy with the channel performance for Linux in the region?

Lamb: So far we’ve been working with Red Hat and SuSE across the region so it doesn’t really matter which Linux, they’re doing a great job. We’d like to see more skills, in the local ISPs on Linux, and we’d like to see more people developing technology on Linux, but channel performance is good.

CME: How is the Arabised version of Linux coming along?

Lamb: You know it’s an open source so everybody’s contributed. IBM has done its share, we’ve got a development team in Cairo that has contributed. But also the local community in terms of the Saudi Computing Society has done a great job in adding their input into the open source.

Currently it is available on the web and you can download that for free. So you have the basic Linux, and you can add the Arabic support.

I think today we can say we’ve got a reliable version that supports Arabic, and fits the market requirements.

In fact if you’re looking for examples where it is in use, we’re talking about the government organisations, we’re talking about the banking organisations. All use Linux in an enabled way for Arabic, because a lot of the data is in Arabic. The National Museum in Cairo is also a user of Linux.

CME: How do you see the growth of Linux in the region over the next year compared to worldwide sales?

Lamb:This is one of the fastest growing regions right now, I think its going to accelerate here because you’ve got a lot of companies embarking on new projects vis-à-vis we’ve established more banking and government systems here than the western world. So you’ve got a lot more organisations in the public and private sector that are looking to embark on new major projects, and I think the flexibility associated with this technology and the economics involved is going to be very attractive to these sectors.||**||

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