IBM and Sun today announced that day announced that IBM will distribute Solaris 10 and Solaris Subscriptions for select x86-based IBM System x servers and BladeCenter servers to clients through IBM's channels. The servers include IBM System x3650, System x3755, and System x3850 servers, and IBM BladeCenter HS21 and LS41 servers.
Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz described the relationship as the only "tier-one relationship" and a "tectonic plate shift" that would accelerate the adoption of Solaris. "We have lots of customers wanting us to work together," said Schwartz. Sun plans to announce deals with other top vendors for Solaris 10, in addition to the IBM agreement. At this point, HP has an "arms length" relationship with Sun relative to Solaris , Schwartz said. He wouldn't comment on whether Dell would sign a Solaris deal with Sun similar to IBM's.
The agreement is an extension of IBM's existing support for the Solaris OS on some IBM BladeCenter servers.
"This is the first of what we hope will be an expanded relationship between Sun, Solaris and the IBM hardware division," said Bill Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Systems and Technology Group.
"I don't see this as compromising our commitment to AIX, Linux or other operating systems we have. Its a reinforcement of open interoperability to the market," Zeitler said in response to a question about adding in Solaris 10. "Our differentiator is choice," he added. Sun will support the product, and book that revenue as well as for Solaris 10 licenses, and two companies will work together on drivers and performance tuning. "The optimizations and testing are underway and should be available in the next 90 days or so," Zeitler said.
Schwartz and Zeitler expressed interest in having Solaris 10 run on IBM mainframes.
It doesn't add up to a tectonic plate shift, as Schwartz suggested, but it gives Sun access to the huge IBM channel. For IBM, it's a sell the hardware and services and give customers whatever operating system they want. "You get more chances [to make a sale], and it expands our opportunity," Zeitler concluded. "This is the way you have to operate if you are going to do it the way [customers] want to deal."
Update: Post press conference I chatted with Bernie Meyerson, vice and chief technologist of IBM Systems Group, and Rich Green, executive vice president of software at Sun. Given Solaris 10 launched in late 2004, and OpenSolaris January 2005, what took so long for Sun to put together the deal with IBM. Customers can run Solaris 10 on IBM's x86 servers today, but it's not optimized for the systems nor offered via IBM's massive channel.
"It takes time to accrue demand in the marketplace and to come up with a business and partner model that works for both companies," Green said. It's not lost on IBM that Solaris is supported on more than 800 x86 platforms, has been download 8 million times and runs thousands x86 applications, including IBM's DB2, Tivoli, Rational, and WebSphere.
Meyerson said that the business relationship between the two companies is a "win-win" scenario, despite the fact that the two will compete for x86 hardware sales. Such is the world of coopetition we live in...