Doing Business with Mainframe Emulators Might Not Hurt IBM
But in fact, IBM could decide to do business with the makers of emulators. The reason is simple, and is a lesson that IBM learned the last time this happened. IBM makes a lot of money out of selling its operating systems. This is revenue that IBM wouldn't receive otherwise. It's unlikely to cannibalize mainframe sales because it's unlikely that buyers of an x86 server are really customers that would buy a mainframe. But what will happen is that those same users will find out that IBM figured out virtualization a very long time ago. They'll learn that IBM mainframe operating systems are stable, robust and flexible. This is why IBM continues to sell mainframes in this day of standards-based servers.Ultimately, IBM could find itself making a lot of money by letting the emulators buy its operating system because the company gets the licensing fees, but doesn't have to do anything to sell it. It's basically free money. Some of the users, meanwhile, will discover that they like what IBM has to offer and will move to real mainframe platforms, bringing the company business it wouldn't have had otherwise. The EC Competition Commissioner, meanwhile, will find that IBM's mainframe business is a large, but not overwhelming, part of a rather small pie. While I haven't been able to find specific figures, it's likely that Apple is a much larger player in the computer world than is the IBM mainframe business. The remainder of the mainframe business in Europe, meanwhile, is alive and well and isn't threatened by IBM. But the thought of Apple does bring up another question. Isn't that company, which is far larger than IBM's mainframe business, doing exactly the same thing as IBM? You can't buy Apple's products except as bundles. You can't buy Mac OS for anything but a Mac. So if the EC is investigating IBM, shouldn't it also be investigating Apple? Or is the EC playing favorites again?
But if IBM treats the emulator makers as a marketing opportunity instead of competition, the company will learn something else, too. Just as was the case back in the day, IBM's software customers will eventually come to realize that there's something to be said for the real mainframe hardware when it comes to high-end jobs. Now that IBM's mainframes are primarily designed as servers rather than multiuser machines with 3270 terminals, moving up to a mainframe from an emulated device running on an x86 server should be pretty easy.