Sun Slams IBM over x86 Decision

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-01-17 Print this article Print

Sun doesn't buy IBM's reason for not supporting Solaris 10 for x86, saying the move smacks of monopolistic behavior.

IBMs decision not to test, certify and support its enterprise software applications on Solaris 10 for x86 platforms has angered Sun Microsystems Inc. officials, who say the move smacks of monopolistic behavior. Larry Singer, vice president of Suns Global Information Systems Strategy Office, in Santa Clara, Calif., told eWEEK that the move is even more surprising given that IBM has committed to supporting Solaris 10 on Suns SPARC hardware for its enterprise software applications, including DB2, WebSphere and Tivoli.

Solaris 10 for SPARC and x86 is due by the end of March.

"They are telling us they dont anticipate sufficient customer support for Solaris 10 on x86, and that is the reason," Singer said. "But the real reason for this move is they just dont want the volume of Solaris business on x86 to continue to grow. That is not in their interest."

IBM officials said that while its software supports a range of platforms, decisions to do so are made on the basis of customer demand. "Solaris 10 on x86 is new and has not reached that required level of customer interest," said IBM spokesperson Steve Eisenstadt, in Somers, N.Y. "We are in very close contact with thousands of our customers across many industries, and if and when we believe the demand is there for Solaris 10 on x86, we will review the matter."

Singer said Solaris 10 runs on Suns platforms and the x86 platform, including Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron processor-based machines; hundreds of other ISVs, including BEA Systems Inc., SAP AG, Veritas Software Corp. and Siebel Systems Inc., have already ported their applications. The ISVs would not have done so if there was not customer demand for this, he added.

"IBM is competing only against smaller companies, so they dont have to give customers choice. As a smaller company, we do," Singer said.

Some large enterprise customers, such as General Motors Corp., which has a $3 billion annual IT budget, agree with Singer. Tony Scott, chief technology officer of GMs information systems and services group in Detroit, said IBM is wrong and that the company is looking backward in the mirror on this issue rather than forward. GM was one of the customers pushing Sun to get onto the x86 platform. "We really like [Solaris on x86] from a competitive standpoint," Scott said.

Click here to read the review "x86 64-Bit Server Space Heats Up." "The pressure is going to mount on IBM and others to support their applications on that platform, which is going to have significant market share and has all the marks of a successful, viable, competitive platform," Scott said. "For companies such as GM, which already has an installed Sun base, this is attractive. In this particular case, I think IBM is being a little shortsighted."

GMs preferred environment is one where there is competition and choice, which the company looks for when making buying decisions. "What this means long term if IBM sticks by that decision is a loss of opportunity for them. A decision not to port to a popular platform is in a sense taking yourself out of the ballgame," Scott said.

Next Page: Suns McNealy has a conversation with IBM.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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