IBM Entices Sun, HP Customers onto Linux Mainframes

IBM, which is seeing a continued resurgence in the mainframe space, is offering new migration services and financial incentives in hopes of luring away some HP and Sun Unix customers. IBM's move comes at a time when its System z mainframe business saw market share growth in the first quarter, and as other vendors, including CA and Unisys, push their mainframe agendas. It also comes as Oracle closes in on its purchase of Sun.

IBM is pushing the momentum it has behind its mainframe businesses with new services designed to lure away Unix customers from rivals Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

IBM May 29 is announcing new services and financing to make it easier for businesses to migrate their Unix workloads over to Linux on the company's System z mainframe systems.

The Server Consolidation and Migration Services offering is designed around programs that IBM has used internally when moving its own workloads onto the mainframe as part of larger consolidation projects, said Karl Freund, vice president for System z strategy and marketing at IBM.

OEMs all have initiatives under way to lure customers away from their competitors, and Freund said that the bulk of the growth in IBM's mainframe business is fueled by organizations that already are System z customers. IBM has had some success in migrating customers from both HP and Sun, and is seeing increasing interest from Sun customers because of the anticipated acquisition by Oracle.

"It was already a strong growth market for us because of the uncertainty [around Sun's future]," Freund said. "Now the uncertainty is geared up because of the possible Oracle acquisition."

IBM estimates that more than 150 businesses have moved from competitive systems to IBM's mainframes.

With enterprises looking to consolidate their data center infrastructures, some are turning to the mainframe platform, particularly in combination with Linux, he said. According to IBM, almost 2,800 of the 5,000 unique applications available for the System z platform are Linux-based, and Linux accounted for about half of the 1,000 or so new and updated applications created for the IBM mainframe in 2008. In addition, more than 40 percent of new System z customers in 2008 installed Linux.

"We're seeing customers really driving a lot of consolidation projects [onto the mainframe] because they get a rapid return on their investment," Freund said, touting the mainframe's simplicity, scalability, security and manageability when compared with more distributed computing environments.

IBM is seeing a lot of Web server, application server and database workloads getting ported to Linux on the mainframe, he said.