Sun Eyes Tighter IBM Relationship - 2

Now that IBM has agreed to support Solaris on the x86 hardware platform, Sun Microsystems Inc.

Now that IBM has agreed to support Solaris on the x86 hardware platform, Sun Microsystems Inc. executives are hoping that this may be the catalyst for a range of other agreements that could lead to more choices and more flexibility for IT departments.

At the top of Suns list is having IBM become the first top-tier OEM for Solaris to help push the operating system deeper into the enterprise, but IBM officials are pouring cold water on the idea.

John Loiacono, Suns executive vice president for software, in Santa Clara, Calif., is calling for IBM to place Solaris on an equal footing with the Linux distributions it ships from Novell Inc.s SuSE and Red Hat Inc.

"I would like to see IBM support Solaris 10 as an OEM, but they have different rules about how they do OEM deals. But I would like to see them treat Solaris 10 with [a status equal] to how they treat their Linux distributions," Loiacono said.

But Suns hopes for other deals, especially one in which IBM becomes an OEM for Solaris 10 on x86, seem like wishful thinking for now.

"I really cant comment on other agreements or wishes or prayers or hopes. But I can say there are no such deals in the works," said IBM software spokesperson Ron Faveli in Somers, N.Y.

IBM has a vested interest in promoting its own software ahead of Solaris, but many IBM customers are pushing for the company to solidify its relationship with Sun.

Last month, IBM and Sun jointly announced IBM will license Java for servers, desktops, mobile devices and smart cards until 2016; it will also port its DB2, Rational, Tivoli and WebSphere middleware to Solaris 10 running on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s hardware over time.

That deal surprised many, given IBMs refusal earlier this year to support Solaris 10 on x86. But some enterprise heavyweights, including General Motors Corp., which has a $3 billion annual IT budget and an installed Sun base, pushed IBM to make the move, according to GM CIO Tony Scott in Detroit.

Other customers said they would also welcome deeper IBM-Sun ties. Richard Ward, executive director of technical services at the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Inc., said the fact that Sun and IBM are porting key applications to Solaris is a major step forward. "Solaris is a core component of our infrastructure, and we rely on a number of IBM middleware products to run our business," Ward said.

Suns chief operating officer and president, Jonathan Schwartz, said the two companies are now "tighter than we have been in a long time, but ... theres still more market opportunity for us."

Sun officials said they would also like to see IBM deliver Solaris running on its xSeries and on its proprietary platforms, such as Power. "Wed approach that the same way as wed approach putting Solaris on Itanium: with open arms. But that would require assistance from IBM," Schwartz said.

A source close to IBM, who asked to remain anonymous, said any such deal is unlikely. The source questioned why IBM would embrace Solaris 10 when IBMs own Unix-based offering, AIX, on its Power architecture is successful and has already overtaken Solaris on Suns SPARC hardware.