IBM: Poised to eat Solaris' lunch?

IBM: Poised to eat Solaris' lunch?

Summary: Apparently not satisfied with the 12,000 Linux customers it claims to have under its belt, IBM is ramping up yet another major Linux initiative and this time, it has put Sun's Solaris squarely into its crosshairs. Big Blue has formalized a formulaic Solaris-to-Linux migration assessment program and, starting today, it is making that program available at no charge to Solaris shops that are seriously considering the move.


Apparently not satisfied with the 12,000 Linux customers it claims to have under its belt, IBM is ramping up yet another major Linux initiative and this time, it has put Sun's Solaris squarely into its crosshairs. Big Blue has formalized a formulaic Solaris-to-Linux migration assessment program and, starting today, it is making that program available at no charge to Solaris shops that are seriously considering the move.  Using the same team from IBM's Sector7 acquisition that put together the Chiphopper program, not only will IBM do a complete migration analysis that includes full configuration of any of IBM's Linux-enabled targets (from x86 servers to mainframes); the company says it won't charge you a penny if, after going through the assessment, you elect not to migrate.  

PodcastIt seems like a no-brainer.  If you're a Solaris shop, what do you have to lose buy having the assessment done?  According to IBM's Scott Handy, the man in charge of Big Blue's global Linux push, the answer is nothing. Given all the stops that IBM is pulling out to move its customers to Linux, "nothing" also appears to be what IBM will stop at in order to advance its Linux footprint.  During my interview of him (available as an MP3 that can be downloaded or, if you’re already subscribed to ZDNet’s IT Matters series of audio podcasts, it will show up on your system or MP3 player automatically. See ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in), Handy talked about how a similar free program for Solaris-to-AIX assessments was so successful, that they decided to clone it for Linux. Another reason to start the program, according to Handy,is that approximately 25 percent of the 12,000 "Linux engagements" that IBM claims to already have were Solaris migrations.

In the interview, Handy explains the free "pre-funded" nature of the program and how it will be available from IBM's resellers as well.  He talks about a 35-city tour that IBM is embarking on where customers and IBM's business partners (the resellers) will be able attend a presentation that describes the program (particularly for moving to one of the OpenPower platforms). Handy goes on to discuss why the program involves Red Hat Linux and not Novell's SuSE Linux, whether or not IBM is attempting to ween itself from dependence on Microsoft and why, in acquiring an open source provider of J2EE solutions, IBM passed up JBoss and the opportunity to double it's J2EE marketshare by acquiring the little known Gluecode instead. He also discusses the future of AIX, particularly because of how out of balance IBM's Linux efforts are compared to AIX, and questions whether Sun's Janus -- a technology that allows binaries designed to run on Red Hat Linux to run unchanged on Solaris -- will actually matter. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

Handy on how the assessment will include a recommendation of any of IBM's Linux targets:

To drive business moving from Solaris to Linux on IBM eServer, so the funding is coming from the team behind the eServer.   This could be Solaris to xSeries, Solaris to bladecenter, Solaris to Linux on the  mainframe, or Solaris to any of the Power platforms --  OpenPower: Linux on iSeries, Linux on pSeries.  This also includes storagel.   A lot of customers, when they migrate servers, also want to migrate their storage capabilities and do an infrastructure simplification and get TCO reduction on their storage.    Customers don’t have to decide upfront what’s the right server for their workload.  The assessment team can come in and help them with that.

Handy on Sun's Janus technology (a technology for running Linux applications unchanged on Solaris):

There’s about 6,000 applications that run on Linux.  Those ISVs tend to certify on one or two or sometimes more distributions.  But most ISVs certify on Red Hat Linux and Novell’s SuSE Linux.  Those are the two they certify. What we’re finding from talking to our Wall Street customers is that very few if any of the ISVs that they require for mission critical business have certified on Linux running in an emulation mode.  While [Sun] claims [it will] work, the ISVs have to certify support in that environment such that if a customer has a problem at 2am on a Friday night that somebody is going to take the support call and support that environment.

Handy on what IBM is doing to make sure the most important Solaris apps are ready to go on Linux:

We surveyed 23 of the top Wall Street accounts and got the list of ISVs who still had yet to move to Linux; and in that set of surveys, we identified [58 applications from 24 ISVs] that were really critical in order to get the mainstream Solaris environment over to Linux and we went on an effort to really recruit those [ISVs].  Twenty-two of those ISVs have committed to move 48 of those applications and 33 of them are already available. Those same ISVs are being courted to move to Solaris 10 on x86. That’s not a freebie either.  These ISVs have to move off of Solaris SPARC to take advantage of this price/performance.

Is IBM making all the right moves? Give the interview a listen and share your opinions with your fellow  readers using ZDNet's Talkback (click on "Comments" below).


Update: Sun has responded to IBM's announcement, calling it an act of desperation.

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • Bait and switch

    IBM services are THE MOST EXPENSIVE in the industry. They are also pretty crappy in terms of response. We at Company "F" had a good thing going with Sun - their onsite people were BETTER than Mike Cox's "rep", as they could conquer ANY problem.

    However, Company "F" decided to go with IBM, and the transition has been downright difficult! We STILL have legacy Sun systems running - with no migration plans. It seems we just ended up buying IBM servers for new projects, and the old ones are still on Sun.

    Oh the bait and switch is when IBM convinces you that buying a $2 million mainframe for running Linux is the BEST thing for you!
    Roger Ramjet
  • This is still dreamware

    IBM DOES NOT have a complete and seamless transfer toLinux infrastructure yet. AND you need to get IBM's expensive (but nevertheless solid) P5 h/w.

    Why would IBM's Linux support be better than Solaris's one? Solaris 10 is already there and people can run ALL their OSS apps already. With IBMs approach they would have to switch to IBM's h/w. Is this a minor cost? And what will IBM do with their own AIX?

    On the other hand it is good that there IS competition and thus people are forced to cut the fat and become more effective.

  • IBM rushing to beat the MS/Sun colaboration???

    Ok, so your running Solaris and it works just fine. IBM would like you to switch to Linux in the hopes that one day you buy hardware from them, maybe. Or maybe they want to sell you "services". But why the sudden push to do it now when their "automatic change over" isn't really all that easy?

    My take is IBM is DEEPLY concerned about the alliance between Sun and MS. If MS allows their products to run on Solaris (with some proprieatary extensions) then it's game over for IBM running Linux. (Just as it was game over when OS/2 didn't run Office properly.)

    I know I keep beating this drum and others say it will never happen but I have to disagree. It won't hurt MS a bit to provide a version of Office on Solaris any more than it "hurts" them to provide it for the Mac. (Which is based on a version of Unix.) In fact it's just more sales for Office.

    I can easily see a day in the near future you can have the open source version of Solaris, toss some extentions on it, and Office is off and running. That day surely has IBM scared to death. After all, it gives users the best of both worlds and that is something IBM can't do...
    • Interesting, but

      First off, I can run MS Office on Linux now. Combine that with Samba and you can actually participate quite fully with a Linux box. (It is a strange thing seeing that big blue IE "e" icon on a KDE desktop though.)

      I would suspect that IBM really doesn't have much to be concerned about concerning any Sun/MS actions. IBM is just looking for another revenue stream and it looks like they've come up with a pretty good "cookie-cutter" solution where they can go out and try to drum up new business relatively cheaply and relatively risk-free.
      Robert Crocker
      • You may run little pieces, but not all of Office.

        Sorry but no...
    • MS/Sun collaboration was due to the case in Europe.

      The only reason that they are working together is becasue it may getthe European courts off of Microsoft (Sun was one of the parties involved, got some $1.7 Billion of so to drop it). This wasn't that long ago, it was even reported in this tech tabloid!

      IBM will (try to) eat Sun's lunch, as it is a large multinational company hungry for more sources of revenue (just like Microsoft). Sun is also in trouble due to it's current finacial situation (see 10Q, etc.).

      IBM promotes Linux accross it's product lines as this is what customers have asked for, rather than AIX. Both IBM and Sun have Linux products (Sun Desktop is a Linux distrib). IBM also promotes Java a bit more than Sun as it runs accross all of their systems (AIX, AS/400, etc.) a bit heavier than Sun does, even though Sun created it.

      Will Microsoft port Office to Solaris? Who knows, is it really needed? They can run Windows on a daughtercard in a Sparc workstation, so porting it to Solaris is probubly not required.

      I doubt that IBM is very concerned.
      • Yes and no...

        MS and Sun could have kept the running battle going, but both see IBM as their real threat. Well, IBM and Linux anyhow. Think it through, Sun is battling IBM, MS is battling Linux. The enemy of my enemy...

        And no, most people won't go to the trouble or expence of putting in a card to do much of anything...
        • Too defensive

          Linux's biggest threat to Microsoft is replacing Unix before Microsoft's products can. That means there is no real distinction between Sun's goals and Microsoft's, defensively. Neither wants Linux replacing Unix.

          IBM is, of course, largely a service company. Like RedHat, their best chance of making a profit comes when companies are doing something difficult, too difficult to do without help. And selling the hardware needed as part of the solution makes creating problems pure gold.

          So, the battle is: IBM makes money on disruption, Sun makes money on stasis, and Microsoft makes money by outcompeting both Sun and IBM on cheap computing.

          Note, that's outcompeting IBM on costs, not outcompeting Linux. Hopeless to point out to the Linux fans, I suppose, but the topic here is companies' attempts to increase profits, not the quality of the software.
          Anton Philidor
          • Comment on one statement you made.

            ---"Hopeless to point out to the Linux fans, I suppose, but the topic here is companies' attempts to increase profits, not the quality of the software."---

            Here I agree completely. Most Linux people I know (including the one that works for me) simply do not understand or wish to understand that it's all about the money and the code really makes no difference at all. I find it amazing that so many knowledgable IT people haven't the first clue about what makes a business run or that "packaging sells the product".
          • Since they don't know...

            ... repeating the point might help a bit.

            You wrote:
            I find it amazing that so many knowledgable IT people haven't the first clue about what makes a business run...

            A company is in business to profit. The larger the profit, the better the company is run.

            [You have missed a discussion of executive compensation which concluded by noting that many contracts have provisions for paying large severance packages despite executive departures directly to prison.]

            I suspect part of the problem is, they assume others care about the code as deeply as they do. Not correct.
            Anton Philidor
          • Reminds me of my youth...

            As a fresh Mechanical Engineer I went to work with a large company and took on the task of solving a problem. I build a great widget and it worked a treat.

            Invited the boss to look it over and he sais, "Why? Doesn't it work?" I said of course it works. He then said, "Were you within budget?" I agian answered in the affirmative. That's when he said, "Then there is no reason to waste my time looking at it is there"?

            It was a stinging lesson but it was one that needed to be experianced. The bottom line is no one really cares how it works, just as long as the costs are know and it does what it's supposed to.

            I mean be honest, do you really care how the torque convertor works in your car???
  • This is IBM responding to Sun's efforts

    IBM is responding to Sun's aggressive push of Solaris x86 on Opteron as Sun's own alternative migration platform to Linux x86. Sun has had success especially in the financial markets with this.

    There is no doubt migrating from Solaris/SPARC to Solaris/x86 is easier than migrating from Solaris/SPARC to Linux/x86.

    And there is little reason for anyone to migrate to Linux on non-x86 platforms. They have very low ISV mindshare.
  • Very interested switching from solaris to linux

    We are mainly a sun unix shop (have some aix and hpux boxes) but for awhile now, I have not been to impress with suns servers (IBM P5 boxes kill sun boxes).

    So I wonder if buying a less expensive intel/amd hardware is the better directions. Install linux and our apps (lawson, webmd, indus, oracle, in house apps, etc) on the intel/amd hardware might be a better choice. (could install solaris x86, but I think linux would be better since more uses on linux than solaris x86)

    Also, we are not locked into one hardware vendor either which is another plus. Now I need to do my reasearch!!
  • I did it 8 years ago

    Note that I migrated from Solaris to Slackware Linux running on IBM Thinkpad and still using it. It's very affordable, indeed.
    • (nt)You?re comparing one ThinkPad to an entire server infrastructure?

  • Wow good move

    The only problem How will that all work with FREE
  • Nothing to lose?

    David writes "If you?re a Solaris shop, what do you have to lose buy (sic) having the assessment done?".

    Potentially lots. It's called opportunity cost. Unless IBM has figured out a way to do an assessment without the customer expending any time or effort.

    After that, if you've accept IBM's proposition you've got lots more to lose as IBM slowly takes over your shop and creates a lock-in. I've seen it many times.
  • Any inroads on Sun by IBM will not bode well for MS

    MS started out with SCO as there front line against Linux, now that SCO is coming apart, they have retreated to Sun. If IBM starts to hack away at Sun's marketshare, watch out MS! And there are some pretty significant political implications here. There are more than a few Solaris shops around that are very anti-Microsoft at the management level, and Sun's new found relationship with MS won't sit well with them. This could be their opportunity to cut Sun loose and move over to IBM. Sun, at this point, has become merely a pawn in the galactic battle between MS and IBM. And unlike Linux marketshare numbers, the numbers on this one will be upfront for all to see just like the dramatic losses being currently racked up by SCO with their Unixware product.
    George Mitchell
    • I fail to see your point.

      If a shop is anti-MS, it's not going to matter to MS if they switch to IBM.
  • Linux "IS GREAT"!

    Solaris 10 is for free, runs on multiple platforms, has matured in 20 years. Even SPARC based systems came down in price drastically thus beating Intel-based offerings. Is there a real cost benefit in the switch?

    Why companies look to cut their operating costs by any means in their IT departments? Why they so frantically cut cost of their own "backbone" and "lungs".

    Why those CEO/CIO/IT Managers wouldn't go for a discount surgery on their eyes or heart?