IBM Acquiring Transitive to Increase Virtualization Capabilities of Power Systems

IBM agrees to acquire Transitive, which has developed virtualization technology that will allow applications written for one processor and operating system to run on a completely different platform. Transitive is best known for software that allowed Apple Macintosh applications written for PowerPC platforms to run on newer Intel-based Macs. Transitive also created software that allows Solaris/SPARC applications to run on Linux systems.

IBM is planning to increase the virtualization capabilities of its Power Systems by acquiring Transitive, a company that has developed software that allows applications written for a specific microprocessor and operating system to run on different platforms.

IBM and Transitive announced the acquisition agreement Nov. 18. The two companies did not disclose financial terms or a specific time frame for closing the deal. Transitive is a privately held company with offices in Manchester, England and Los Gatos, Calif.

Transitive has been carving out a niche in the virtualization market for several years by taking a different approach to virtualization. For example, while VMware allows multiple operating systems to run at the same time, the company's hypervisor keeps all these operating systems separate. Transitive, on the other hand, allows different applications to run on different platforms within the same memory space.

Transitive might be best known for providing the technology for Apple's Rosetta software, which allows applications written for the PowerPC platform to run on the new generation of Macs that use Intel processors.

More recently, Transitive developed software called QuickTransit, which allows applications compiled for one type of processor and operating system to run on different platforms with minimal modifications to that platform. In 2006, Transitive announced a version of its QuickTransit software designed for Solaris/SPARC platforms. This software allows Intel-based computers using Linux to run Solaris/SPARC applications in the same memory space as the Linux applications.

Transitive also has software that allows Solaris/SPARC applications to run on systems that use the Intel Itanium processor.

IBM has been using Transitive technology to enhance the virtualization and migration capabilities of its PowerVM software, which allows Linux applications running on x86-based hardware to work on IBM Power Systems that use the company's Power processors. (IBM created its Power Systems portfolio in April when it combined its System p and System i offerings into one standard product.)

In a statement, IBM did not offer specifics of what it would do after it acquires Transitive. IBM did note that the company would develop "additional tools and solutions to make migrations even easier, while minimizing the risk and increasing the financial returns for clients as they consolidate and virtualize to achieve significant business benefit."

IBM has also been looking to strengthen its position in the Unix market and has offered a number of new technologies, including virtualization and migration tools, designed to lure users away from Sun Microsystems and its Unix servers based on the SPARC chip as well as Hewlett-Packard and its line of Integrity systems based on the Itanium chip.

IBM is also marketing its Power Systems as a consolidation tool for enterprise customers that want to consolidate numerous x86 servers running Linux onto fewer systems.

"The IBM PowerVM technology had been designed mostly for Unix workloads and the Transitive technology has been more designed for optimizing virtualization for Linux," said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research.

"Linux plays a significant role in IBM's Power offerings," King added. "This not only reflects IBM's long dedication to Linux development but the Linux on Power is also a key tool IBM has used as part of its migration strategies that it has been directing at both Sun and HP customers."