Sun Slams IBM over x86 Decision

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-01-17

Sun Slams IBM over x86 Decision

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.

Sun Slams IBM over x86 Decision - Page 2

Singer said Sun CEO Scott McNealy told him of a recent conversation he had with IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano, who told him that IBM no longer has to support an environment that includes Sun, even if it is one that is best for the customer.

"That behavior smells monopolistic. Withholding support for industry-leading platforms which are not IBMs own smacks of that," Singer said. "IBM has announced all its support for Linux and continues to sell [its Unix-based] AIX [operating system] and other proprietary systems. They do more volume on their own proprietary systems, but they make the market think they are being open by supporting Linux."

But IBMs Eisenstadt rejected that, saying that one just had to look at all the platforms that IBM supported to know it was patently untrue.

Singer said that IBM has long supported Solaris for its enterprise software applications, including DB2, Informix, Lotus, Tivoli and WebSphere, all of which run on Solaris 8 and 9. Now they will run on Solaris 10 for SPARC but not on x86.

"The reason we are moving to Solaris on x86 is that customers are demanding choice for where they run their enterprise applications, and by IBM doing this they are restricting customer choice," Singer said. "The code base for Solaris on x86 and SPARC is exactly the same. Its a simple recompile. But what they are not agreeing to do is test and certify. Its not a matter of not being able to run it."

Linux had emerged as a way to free-market economics of the x86 platform and was essentially an attack on RISC architecture, Singer said. Customers were seeing that they could use the low-cost x86 platforms to do the same type of work done on RISC without the security exposure and scalability issues they had with Windows, he said.

GMs Scott said x86 is a very viable enterprise platform along with Solaris, which has the highest quality of all the Unix-based operating systems.

"We like the x86 platform and the ability it brings to scale out," Scott said.

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