Suns Schwartz Calls Out IBM on Lack of Support for Solaris on x86

In an open letter to IBM's CEO, Sun president Jonathan Schwartz accuses Big Blue of ignoring customers' requests. He says the customers are "feeling that your withholding support is part of a vendor lock-in strategy."

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Friday upped the ante in its war of words with IBM over Big Blues lack of support for the upcoming release of Suns Solaris 10 operating system on the x86 hardware platform.

In his online blog, Sun president and chief operating officer Jonathan Schwartz on Friday posted an open letter to IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, in which he said Sun had repeatedly passed along customer interest in having IBM support Solaris 10 for x86 with its enterprise software offerings, including WebSphere, DB2, Tivoli, Rational and MQSeries products.

"Customers have made repeated calls to you and your staff," Schwartz said in his letter. "Those same customers have now asked me to begin communicating with you in a more public and visible way—theyd like the choice to run IBM products on Solaris 10, and theyre feeling that your withholding support is part of a vendor lock-in strategy. A strategy to trap them into IBMs proprietary Power5 platform only. Frankly, that behavior is reminiscent of an IBM history many CIOs would like to forget," he said.

Sun had ensured that IBM engineers were aware that moving from Solaris 8 or 9 to Solaris 10 "takes no work, given that we offer true binary compatibility. If youre on SPARC, and youd like to take advantage of a world of x86 systems, its a simple recompile," Schwartz said.

"Theres no recoding at all. Same applies to scaling up from Intel or Opteron to SPARC. No recoding. So, the technology is there, and so are the customers, partners and opportunities. But its more evident by the day, the only vendors that fear choice are those trying to block it. We stand at the ready to help you tear down this wall," Schwartz said.

The open letter follows growing anger and frustration inside Sun at Big Blues reluctance to support Solaris 10 on x86, which was first reported by eWEEK on Monday.

In that report, Larry Singer, vice president of Suns Global Information Systems Strategy Office, in Santa Clara, Calif., said IBMs move was surprising, given that IBM has committed to supporting Solaris 10 on Suns SPARC hardware for its enterprise software applications, including DB2, WebSphere and Tivoli.

IBM spokesman Steve Eisenstadt, in Somers, N.Y., told eWEEK that while the companys software supported a range of platforms, decisions to do so were made on the basis of customer demand.

"Solaris 10 on x86 is new and has not reached that required level of customer interest. 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," he said.

But Suns Singer disagreed, saying 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."

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.

"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," he said.

But other are not as sympathetic toward Sun. "Aw, gee. Didnt Sun withhold Solaris support for Intels Itanium?" a reader asked in an e-mail to eWEEK. "Was that monopolistic of Sun? What goes around comes around."

In an article on Suns Web site regarding the issue, officials say they will continue to work with IBM to persuade it to port its applications to Solaris for x86 platforms. "We think IBM will eventually see the light."

But Sun officials also issued a call to customers interested in "choice and cross-platform compatibility" to let Sun know or to contact IBMs Palmisano directly.


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