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IBM has combined several technology initiatives, including Linux, grid computing and virtualization, into a single high-growth business group, Strategic Growth Initiative, led by Jim Stallings, ex-general manager of Linux for the Armonk, N.Y., company. Stallings talked last month to eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli about SGI.

What motivated the creation of Strategic Growth Initiative?

We had not had general managers running these other areas per se, and so we brought them all into one group called SGI, and I’m the general manager over all of them. It’s an expansion of my role, but the move is more strategic than organizational. The real opportunity here is that customers are asking for gridded Linux networks and virtualized servers that can run multiple operating systems, and one of them has to be Linux.

What does the inclusion of these technologies in what was primarily a Linux-driven portfolio mean for IBM’s vision and strategy?

There are some common denominators in these initiatives, and one is open standards. Grid won’t work in a proprietary environment. It is also this thread of community working together to maintain these standards. The same community that exists around Linux exists in the global grid environment. What we are recognizing by bringing this all together is that we know how to operate in this world with the common denominator of openness.

Has the litigation between The SCO Group and IBM had any negative effect on your business?

Companies have done rigorous due diligence since the case started and went to their legal and technical teams and vetted not only the risk to them but the technology itself and talked through industry forums about its deployment. So what we have seen is smarter, more aware customers and, as a result, an absolute acceleration of the business.

Is IBM committed to advancing its Unix platform through AIX?

Absolutely. While the Unix market overall is not growing, AIX is taking share and growing. So we will continue to invest in this growing platform. We have gained five points of share over the past five years in the market, and we expect that to continue.