IBM Not Threatened by Suns Novell Gambit

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-08-09 Print this article Print

IBM calls the rhetoric nothing more than an attempt to disrupt IBM and its customers.

IBM officials scoffed at Sun Microsystems Inc.s intimations last week that it would buy Novell Inc., calling the rhetoric nothing more than an attempt to disrupt IBM and its customers.

The issue ignited when Sun President and Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Schwartz mentioned in interviews with the press, including eWEEK, that the Santa Clara, Calif., company has considered making a move to buy Novell. Adding fuel to the fire, Schwartz said such a move could force IBM to depend on Sun for Linux.

Click here to read Schwartzs comments about a Sun-Novell deal.
"Now that [Red Hat Inc. is] supporting an application server, IBM now finds Red Hat competing against it," said Schwartz in an interview, referring to Red Hats J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) application server, which was announced here last week at the LinuxWorld conference.

"What would happen if Sun decided to acquire Novell? What would IBM do?" Schwartz asked. "If Red Hat is competing with them, they are left with only one choice: Novell SuSE Linux. Sun could then end up as the owner of the operating system that runs IBMs mainframe. Wouldnt that be an interesting scenario?"

Jim Stallings, general manager of IBMs Strategic Growth Initiative group, in Armonk, N.Y., said Schwartzs view does not consider all of IBMs business.

"We have lots of products that are above and beyond Linux," Stallings said. "I cant comment on [Schwartzs] logic and position. His view is his view. But our view is that we have always supported two Linux distributions, through Red Hat Linux and Novells SuSE Linux, and here at LinuxWorld we made joint announcements in that regard."

Read eWEEKs interview with IBMs Jim Stallings. In fact, IBMs premier business partners are now part of Red Hats and Novells platinum partner programs. "So, if we had anything less than a positive relationship, we wouldnt be doing that. Were in the market driving a set of solutions together; theres nothing hostile here," Stallings said. He cited as an example IBMs relationship with Oracle Corp., whose database runs on IBM machines, even though it competes with IBMs DB2.

"Let me be clear: Our relationship has never been better with Red Hat. It has never been better with Novell. We are all gaining share and displacing Sun Solaris implementations all over the world. So Im not sure whos more vulnerable here," Stallings said.

One company that hopes Sun acquires Novell is The SCO Group, of Lindon, Utah. SCO, which is fighting Novell and others in court over who owns the intellectual property rights to Unix, would welcome such a deal, as it could change the fundamentals of the case. SCO officials claim a good relationship with Sun, which has paid SCO IP licensing fees.

Read why Linux & Open Source Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is telling Sun and IBM to quit their open-source posturing. SCO has sued IBM, alleging it took proprietary Unix code, which SCO claims it holds all rights to, and included it illegally in the open-source Linux operating system.

"[An acquisition] could change the dynamics of the lawsuits with Novell and IBM," said Darl McBride, CEO and president of SCO, in an interview. "Last time I heard, IBM and Sun werent exactly playing golf together. It is probably [IBM CEO Sam] Palmisanos worst nightmare for that scenario to play out."

Check out eWEEK.coms Linux & Open Source Center at for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

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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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