IBM, Sun Partner to Bring Solaris to IBM Servers

Longtime high-end server rivals IBM and Sun partner to bring Solaris to some IBM server lines.

IBM and Sun announced on Aug. 16 that IBM will distribute Suns Solaris operating system and Solaris Subscriptions for select x86-based IBM System x servers and BladeCenter servers to IBMs customers.

It was only two and a half years ago that IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., said there was no significant customer interest in Solaris on x86 platforms. Sun argued that that wasnt true, and that was a great deal of demand for Solaris on IBM hardware.

IBM already supported Solaris on some IBM BladeCenter servers, but this move opens up users choices for IBM hardware and Solaris-based software. As part of the expanded support, Sun and IBM will invest in testing and system qualification.

The goal of this effort is to make it so that joint customers will be able to realize Solaris leading performance and reliability on BladeCenter and System x servers. IBM servers that will support the Solaris OS include IBM BladeCenter HS21 and LS41 servers; and IBM System x3650, System x3755, and System x3850 servers.

"IBM provides the broadest choice of server platforms and operating systems to customers with AIX, Linux for x86 and Power, Microsoft Windows Server and now Solaris," Bill Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive of IBMs Systems & Technology Group, said in a statement. "IBM is the first major x86 vendor to have such an agreement with Sun; and the first big vendor apart from Sun to offer Solaris on blade servers. Today we expand that agreement to help clients migrate to Solaris on IBM x86-based System x servers."

By adding the Solaris OS to its operating system portfolio, IBM is expanding customer choice. And by participating as one of over 800 partners in the IBM BladeCenter ecosystem, Sun has effectively joined others in the industry helping IBM accelerate the development and adoption of open blade server platforms.

"Were thrilled to be working with IBM to bring the Solaris OS to the broadest market possible—they are a natural partner for Sun," Jonathan Schwartz, president and CEO of Sun Microsystems, based in Santa Clara, Calif., said in a statement. "Solaris adoption continues to accelerate, among both the open-source and commercial communities—driven by bundled virtualization for servers and storage, support for thousands of ISVs, including nearly the entirety of IBMs software portfolio, and outstanding operational economics. Solaris is clearly a choice customers are demanding."

In his blog, Schwartz was even more enthusiastic, "To me, this is a tectonic shift in the marketplace—bringing together erstwhile competitors to serve a marketplace IBM and Sun agree is bigger than the both of us. By working together, we can serve customers wanting to run Solaris on IBM hardware, and deliver a unique set of solutions (including IBMs middleware, the majority of which is certified on Solaris, too). This isnt about displacing partners or revenue streams, its about growing both—and as the first Tier 1 x86 system vendor to sign on as a comprehensive Solaris OEM, IBM is clearly in the pole position to capture that growth."

While Schwartz may not see this as being about displacing partners or revenue streams, others see it in another light. Longtime technology journalist Dana Blankenhorn blogged that he sees this move as "part of Suns exit strategy from the server business."

During the press conference, Schwartz also commented that Hewlett-Packard, another company which is both rival and partner of Sun, may no longer be as close to Sun as it once was. Schwartz described Suns relationship with HP as being at "at arms length" now. He went on to say that HP is "neither an OEM for Solaris nor can they sell service subscriptions to customers. The relationship with IBM is really the strongest we have with any partner in the marketplace."

The Solaris OS claims to offer a unique feature set, including Solaris ZFS, Predictive Self-Healing and Solaris DTrace (Dynamic Tracing), to help customers improve uptime, cut costs and speed time to market. The company said the Solaris OS allows BladeCenter and System x customers to get excellent application performance on todays and tomorrows multicore 64-bit x86 processors. The Solaris OS and IBM System x and BladeCenter servers bring to market a mission-critical platform with a wide array of leading configuration options such as native 10 Gigabit Ethernet, InfiniBand and IBM-attached storage.

IBM already supports some of its own software on Solaris. With the release of Lotus Notes and Domino 8, the latest versions of IBMs business e-mail and collaboration software, on the very next day, IBM announced that this flagship program would be supported on Solaris servers.

IBM will continue to sell its home-grown Unix operating system, AIX, and its other operating systems such as z/OS and OS/400, and to support Linux.


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