Sun Eyes Tighter IBM Relationship

In the wake of IBM's agreement to support Solaris on the x86 platform, Sun officials hope for OEM support and more, but the reception so far is not encouraging.

Now that IBM has finally agreed to support Solaris on the x86 hardware platform, Sun executives are hoping that this may be the catalyst for a range of other agreements. Top of the list is having IBM become the first top-tier OEM for Solaris, but IBM officials are pouring cold water on the idea.

Officials like John Loiacono, Sun Microsystems Inc.s executive vice president for software, in Santa Clara, Calif., are now also calling for Big Blue to treat Solaris on an equal footing as the Linux distributions it ships from Novell Inc.s SuSE and Red Hat Inc.

"I would very much like to see IBM support Solaris 10 as an OEM, but they have different rules about how they do OEM deals. With Red Hat, they claim that they are more pass through than OEM, but I would like to see them treat Solaris 10 with a status equal to how they treat their Linux distributions," he said.

One of the conditions IBM uses in deciding whether to OEM a product is customer demand, Lioacono said, adding that "they have now acknowledged by their support that demand for Solaris 10 on x86 is there."

But Suns hopes for other deals, especially one in which IBM becomes an OEM for Solaris 10 on x86, may be little more than wishful thinking, as IBM software spokesman Ron Faveli in Somers, N.Y., dismissed any such aspirations.

"You prefaced it correctly when you said that Sun was hoping for such a deal. 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 that I can comment on," he told eWEEK.

Last month IBM and Sun jointly announced that Big Blue would license Java for servers, desktops, mobile devices and smart cards until 2016, as well as port its DB2, Rational, Tivoli and WebSphere middleware to Solaris 10 running on Intel and AMD hardware over time.

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead more here about IBMs announcement regarding Sun Solaris support.

Faveli said Java remains extremely important to the industry, IBM and its customers, and the company is committed to remaining very actively involved there. "Clearly, we have also seen some interest from our customers to support Solaris 10 on x86, and we have now done that," he said.

That deal came as a surprise to many, given Big Blues refusal earlier this year to support Solaris 10 on x86, citing a lack of customer support for the move. But some enterprise heavyweights, like General Motors Corp., which has a $3 billion annual IT budget and an installed Sun base, pushed IBM to make the move.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about IBMs decision to extend its Java license and support its middleware on Solaris.

Tony Scott, the chief technology officer of GMs information systems and services group in Detroit, publicly called for Big Blue to support Solaris 10, telling eWEEK that IBM was wrong not to support Solaris 10 on the x86 platform and accusing IBM of looking backward in the mirror rather than forward on the issue.

Other customers welcomed the move. Richard Ward, the executive director of technical services at the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, said the fact that Sun and IBM are coming together and porting key applications onto 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," he said.

Suns chief operating officer and president Jonathan Schwartz, who led the vocal and very public campaign to get IBM to support Solaris 10 on x86, told eWEEK that the two firms are now "tighter than we have been in a long time, but there is still more common ground for us to trot on … theres still more market opportunity for us," he said.

But he did concede that the two companies need to walk before they can run. "I still think, whether its Solaris on Power or an IBM OEM relationship for Solaris on their xSeries or collaboration around emerging markets, there is so much more we can do together," he said.

The first additional move Sun wants to see from IBM is to have it deliver Solaris to those customers running on xSeries as well as on its proprietary platforms like Power, Schwartz said. "Wed approach that the same way as wed approach putting Solaris on Itanium, with open arms, but that would require assistance from IBM as it unilaterally controls Power. Wed be very eager," he said.

But a source close to IBM said any such deal was very unlikely. He questioned why IBM would embrace Solaris 10 when IBMs own Unix-based offering, AIX, on its Power architecture, was successful in the marketplace and had already overtaken Solaris on Suns SPARC hardware.

"Thats a huge business for IBM in terms of both the AIX and Linux operating systems. Why would they put Solaris 10 on there as well?" he asked.

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