Mainframe Vendor Files Suit Against IBM

Platform Solutions claims that IBM is using anticompetitive tactics. IBM filed suit in November claiming patent infringement against PSI.

A company looking to chip away at IBMs dominance in the mainframe space is countersuing its larger rival, claiming Big Blue is trying to use its massive size to bully its smaller competitor.

Platform Solutions—or PSI—filed a counter lawsuit Jan. 22, saying IBM is attempting to illegally keep control of the mainframe marketplace through such monopolistic means as only selling its mainframe operating systems to customers who agree to buy or continue using IBM mainframes.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company also claims that IBM is restricting Platform Solutions access to interfaces the smaller company needs to stay compatible with the mainframe operating systems.

PSIs lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, comes more than a month after IBM sued it for patent and contract violations. In that suit, filed in the same court Nov. 29, 2006, IBM disputes PSIs claim that its mainframes—which are powered by Intels dual-core Itanium processor—are compatible with IBMs mainframe operating systems, and that such claims are causing confusion in the marketplace, which threatens IBMs mainframe business.

In addition, because the z/OS operating system is not compatible with PSIs systems, customers using PSI mainframes could be disappointed in the results, which could further damage IBMs reputation, it says. IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., also is claiming that PSIs emulation technology violates the licensing contract for z/OS.

However, PSI officials say that IBMs moves are anti-competitive, and that its actions are only designed to squash possible competition in a market dominated by IBM.

"By leveraging its position in the market of operating systems and exploiting the inability of consumers to easily change platforms, IBM is depriving PSI of any meaningful opportunity to compete and is preventing PSIs customers from purchasing the mainframe products they want," PSI wrote in its countersuit. "There is no procompetitive justification for IBMs conduct, which is purely designed to eliminate competition and suppress consumer choice."

Platform, which was founded in 1999 by a group of engineers from Amdahl, is offering mainframes that officials say offer the performance of IBMs systems, but at a lower price, thanks to the use of industry standard technology. Along with the IBM mainframe operating system, the PSI machines also run Linux, Windows and HP-UX, according to the company.

Once considered on the decline, the mainframe business has continued to be a strong one for IBM. According to fiscal fourth-quarter results announced Jan. 18, revenues from System z products grew 5 percent over the same period the previous year, and shipments of mainframe computing power—measured in MIPS, or millions of instructions per second, grew 6 percent.

IBM has continued putting effort and money behind the architecture, including developing specialty processors to make Java and Linux applications run better on the machines and an upgraded operating system, the z/OS V1.8, which features better monitoring capabilities.

In addition, IBM has the z9Business Class mainframe for the midrange market, and in October said it will spend $100 million over the next five years to make the mainframe easier to use.

In their lawsuit, PSI officials say that—now that Amdahl and Hitachi no longer make mainframes—Platform is the only viable competition for IBM in the mainframe space, and that IBMs actions are designed solely to use its size to squash that competition.


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