Solaris/SPARC vs AIX/Power

Solaris/SPARC vs AIX/Power

Summary: Or, if you prefer to see the glass as half empty: the chances that the lack of a critical application forces you into a risky and expensive development or porting project are at least ten times greater with AIX/Power than with Solaris/SPARC.

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TOPICS: Apps
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Suppose someone high up in your organization announces that your data center choice between IBM's AIX on Power offerings and Sun's Solaris on SPARC line is more of a business decision than a technology decision - thus both abrograting and announcing the intended decision. What do you do?

I think your review should focus on four distinct sets of issues:

  1. what application availability tells you about the decision;
  2. what the two technologies imply about future business strategies;
  3. how costs compare; and,
  4. what the relative threatscapes look like.

One note: when I started this series of five blogs I didn't think they would be hard to write, but as it turns out the first two have been, and I doubt that will change for the other three. What's going on is that I've worked with people from both cultures, used both product sets, and consequently have some difficulty seeing the good things on IBM's side. Think of this, please, not as an admission of bias (perish the thought!) but as a challenge to readers: catch me where I'm wrong..

Anyway, to get through this, lets look at application availability today, at technology tomorrow, and review various forms of cost next week.

Notice that if you're interested in helping shape larger scale corporate business decisions on long term platform partners you're really not going to care much about either company's claims to run most Linux software or about the cultural implications of either architecture's presence on Sourceforge. What you are going to care about are first your own applications - do they work? are they supported? - and secondly what third party vendor commitment to either "platform" can tell you about how people are likely to view your decision five years from now.

Here's how IBM describes their ISV community:

Independent software vendors recognize AIX as a premier UNIX operating system. Over 3000 ISVs now support over 8000 applications on AIX 5L. Support for your core application is most likely available today. For more unique applications, IBM offers a rapid process for porting applications to the latest AIX platform.

View ISV application availability

Click on that link and what you get is their "Business Partner Application Showcase". This is sorted by industry and selecting "view all" for the first one shown, banking, gets you the first ten of a claimed 1,194 search results.

Four of the first ten are in English, three are in Asian languages about which I have no clues (except that the technical environments are listed in English), one is in Italian, and two are in German.

Although AIX 5L V5.3 is not mentioned in any of the ten listings, five mention AIX or AIX 5L V5.1 as run time environments. Two require Windows, one requires Red Hat Linux, one OS/400, and one zOS.

Google returned no hits outside IBM's promotional environment for two of the seven products listed in non Asian languages - and the references to "OS/400" and "Windows 2000" in two others gives reason to suspect that these listings are well past their best before dates. AIX 5L V5.1's nominal end of service date was Dec 31, 2005.

One firm, India's 3i Infotech, has two English language listings among these first ten - and both apparently support AIX. In total there are nine listings for 3i's "Kastle" applications - but four of those are duplicates and one of those is listed a third time under the name: "Triton - Universal Lending Solution".

Quickly and repeatedly clicking on "Next" caused IBM's site to lose the page and item counters, but it eventually stablized on a list of ten starting with "Paxus RFAF Real-time Fraud Application Feed". That page contains one AIX listing (For 5L V5.2), four for Windows, one for zVSE, and four for zOS.

Overall, therefore, I think we're entitled to suspect that no more than half the 1,194 applications returned by searching IBM's partner showcase for banking related AIX applications actually run on AIX, that a majority of these are not 5L V5.3 certified, and that a significant number of the actual AIX entries are duplicated.

In contrast all of the first ten applications (including 3i Infotech's "Bank Alert") on Sun's list of 4,349 Solaris 10/SPARC products exist and run on the current ultraSPARC/Solaris 10 product set.

Sun links the user directly to the software partner's home page while IBM links only to IBM's own listing for the product. Sun's stuff is, therefore, as up to date as the partner's own website, where IBM's approach leaves you to first find, and then grope around in, the vendor's website looking for a current product write-up.

As a check on currency, take a look at what happens when you do a google search on "AIX 5L V5.3 "the leader in" announces -site:ibm.com". The first page includes one hit, ironically Sun's late 2006 Netbeans availability announcement for AIX. In contrast that same search, modified for Solaris 10 yeilds six product announcements, all recent.

So what's the bottom line? Well, we're not going to get definitive numbers on the ISV universe without spending a lot more time on this, but it's probably fair to suggest that the Solaris application base is counted in the thousands and growing where the AIX base is counted in the hundreds.

So unless somebody wants to take the time to evaluate every listing from both companies what this comes down to is a simple bottom line bet: if you pre-commit to Solaris on SPARC and then start hunting for just the right application, your chances of success are on the order of ten times better than if you pre-commit to AIX on Power.

Or, if you prefer to see the glass as half empty: the chances that the lack of a critical application forces you into a risky and expensive development or porting project are at least ten times greater with AIX/Power than with Solaris/SPARC.

See: Part 2

Topic: Apps

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22 comments
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  • Thing is..

    I don't know if IBM care if AIX survives but Sun is desperate to re-invent Solaris to look and handle and "feel good" like Linux.
    AIX has fewer apps ported but it has very steady market share. Solaris has lost more(proportionate) market share to Linux.
    Linux has eaten a lot of Sun's market, many of my company's customers are ex Sun who don't want to pay for overpriced hardware there are some ex AIX customers but the ratio is about 8 to 1

    I suppose Solaris has more apps and more platforms but AIX is strangely resilient. SPARC and POWER are way better than sucky Intel but not really value for money.
    junknstuff1
  • RE: Solaris/SPARC vs AIX/Power (1)

    LOL

    "So unless somebody wants to take the time to evaluate every listing from both companies what this comes down to is a simple bottom line bet: if you pre-commit to Solaris on SPARC and then start hunting for just the right application, your chances of success are on the order of ten times better than if you pre-commit to AIX on Power."

    Who does this? NOBODY!

    Your whole artice is flawed basing it on this premise. Nobody picks an application to support a platform. People pick platforms to support the application. Anyone buying this gear is doing so for an enterprise which will have MULTIPLE platforms anyway.

    Lets take a look at Suns 4000+ applications shall we? Most of the line items are subsets of a single product and different versions of the SAME PRODUCT. Take a look at Agile:
    Agile 9 9.0
    Agile 9: 9.2.1
    Agile e6
    Agile e6 5.1
    Agile e6 6.0.1

    That counts as 5 different applications?? I guess so.

    A guess we'll also count 'Acrobat Reader' and 'Macromedia Flash Player' as critical enterprise applications as well.

    Im not looking forward to the other articles in this series based on this one. Let me summarize it all without reading them: "Sun=good, IBM=bad"
    civikminded
  • RE: Solaris/SPARC vs AIX/Power (1)

    Well, this must be the worst I've read from You yet.
    Don't know if it is cold calculated misinformation, or
    a copy and paste from one of BMSeer FUD articles.

    The ???Business Partner Application Showcase??? is a web page
    that not only hold AIX partners/solutions but partners
    /solutions for other IBM products as well.
    If you'd bothered to read what the page states,
    you should have been able to conclude that on your own.

    If you had typed in AIX in the search field you would
    have gotten 3532 hits, hence 3532 partners/solutions listed.
    Most of the ISV/partners have more than one Application.
    Furthermore there is a link to the ISV's homepage
    on the search result, contrary to what you write.
    I personally find the page clumsy to use, but it
    gets the job done. The search function is there so
    you can search for the apps you need to check
    availability for. Furthermore you will, in Real life,
    when you do check for application availability at
    least do a visit the ISV's support home page to
    verify that the app is supported on the OS/hw etc.
    You do not just look on the hardware vendors page
    for a statement of support.

    Now to the SUN site, I personally think it's easier
    to use, it lists all the apps. not only the partners.
    It also lists many applications 2 or 4 times like
    Oracle TimesTen In-memory Database which it lists
    in 4 different versions 6.0.2/6.0.3 and both in 32 and
    64 bit.
    Not that there is anything wrong with that, sure they
    should list what apps are supported and in which versions when they make a list like the one they have.

    You then wrongly conclude that ISV apps for Solaris
    is in the thousands and AIX is in the hundreds.
    That is a conclusion that is based on your own bias,
    and is so far off the truth that I'd even call your
    statement FUD. There is nothing in your research or
    rather lack of it, that

    Now if you had business partner access at IBM you can
    actually find a list similar to the one at SUN it
    lists 6396 applications for AIX5.3, as of 9/17/2007.

    Furthermore there's one for Linux on POWER also that
    holds 3352 different applications.

    So basically what you've failed to conclude is that
    both Solaris and AIX have a huge ISV support, and
    support _ALOT_ of ISV applications. One could be
    tempted to conclude, from my findings, that AIX 5.3
    have 2000 more applications available, than Solaris
    10 but it would take a good 'washing' of the data in
    the SUN and IBM list to get a reliable answer.
    So I won't conclude that.

    Furthermore in my experience both SUN and IBM will
    help/finance or even port an application that isn't
    available, if it makes economic sense for them.

    Both Solaris10 and AIX5.2+5.3 are UNIX03 certified,
    and Solaris9 and AIX5.2 were both UNIX98 certified.
    So porting applications between or to and from these
    two OS'es isn't that difficult.
    IMHO they are the good guys when it comes to portability.

    Your last conclusion that

    "that the lack of a critical application forces you into
    a risky and expensive development or porting project are
    at least ten times greater with AIX/Power than with Solaris/SPARC"

    is so far off the mark, that not even a bias toward
    Solaris could explain it.

    // Jesper
    JesperFrimann
    • a lot of good points - but...

      I'd sure like to see that internal list. Any chance of that happening?

      As for portability - the issue here isn't whether it can be done, it's whether it needs to be done.
      murph_z
      • RE:a lot of good points - but...

        [i]
        I'd sure like to see that internal list. Any chance of that happening?
        [/i]

        It isn't really 'internal', so just login to partnerworld and
        search for it. As a serious consultant who do serious work on
        IBM platforms, as you have stated in previous post, you surely must have registered, even those of my friends who have their own one person firm who do consulting have access. So go get
        it.
        It's not like I can post thousands of thousands
        of spreadsheet lines here, or mail it to you, now can I.


        [i]
        As for portability - the issue here isn't whether it can be done, it's whether it needs to be done.
        [/i]

        My point was that both Solaris and AIX, have huge ISV support,
        and that they both are easy to move to and from. Which IMHO is
        of great value to customers.
        I helped a customer together with SUN and IBM, some time ago ironing out some performance problems on a V490 that was
        connected to a DS8000. The customer also had a p550Q which ran
        fast enough. So I ported some of SUN performance measurement
        programs to AIX and some of IBM's AIX IO load generating
        programs to Solaris. It only took a few hours to port and test
        both programs, and the performance problem could be resolved
        easily, by running the same tests on the different machines.

        What you cannot/ will not see is that AIX, due to Evil Blue's
        financial muscle, actually have surpassed Solaris in
        number of available apps.
        And that said, with so large number of apps available on both
        Solaris and AIX, whether one have a few more than the other
        doesn't really matter.

        // Jesper
        JesperFrimann
        • Say what?

          1 - You ported dtrace? in a few hours? - not what you meant? mdb, maybe? No? What exactly was it?

          2 - of course you can mail me the list - just gzip it, mail it. murph at winface dot com.

          3 - A DS8000 connected to a V490? holy Sh*! I have trouble believing that because that's a very high end, power5 based, storage system and hooking it to a 490 without an AIX intermediary seems a bit like using a Boeing as a donkey cart.
          murph_z
          • What? credibility indicator moved to red !

            "3 - A DS8000 connected to a V490? holy Sh*! I have trouble believing that because that's a very high end, power5 based, storage system and hooking it to a 490 without an AIX intermediary seems a bit like using a Boeing as a donkey cart."

            Geez Louise... on a SAN who the hell cares what type client sees my disk? Windows, linux, AIX, HPUX, Solaris... don't care. You want a slice / LUN - I got one (sorry Mac - Apple - your not certified for FC with this yet).
            Jim888
  • Talk's Cheap; Sleuthing Takes Work

    I think most of the criticism has missed the point--and the point is a good one: how do we discern some basic facts--just some basic information--about the industry when vendors play games with numbers and lie with marketing? I think this is good start to sleuthing that information out yourself, which is more than most armchair experts do.

    These observations are data points, added to a larger set of information. (He did say that this article, ISV support, was one of 5.)

    So while you might not agree with every conclusion, or, like me, agree with it fine, just not the reasoning that led up to it, it's still a good start. It's a worthwhile attempt and direction. Imagine what Murph might do if someone actually PAID him for this.

    John
    jcawley
    • He is paid for this

      Every post that complains about Murph's fixation with Sun and Unix and his inability to see the obvious solution (get MS like everyone else) is money in Murph's pocket. If he can manage a high profile "Windoze sux and Sun is your new god" article then all those outraged posts give him an income. In case you don't know, ZDNet's remuneration is based on how many posts he gets.

      If you really want an earner you need an article that flames MS, Apple, and *nix.

      The real problem with organisations is the amount of out sourcing. Very few organisations these days have any expertise in house - this means they are unable to evaluate vendor submissions in the first place. I'm currently installing an open source Learning Management System in a MS environment and customising it to use TIBCO web services and interface with a number of other applications (yes Murph - real life is working with what companies use, not suggesting they turn themselves into an homogenous *nix museum). The problem is, that since most of the IT technical stuff is outsourced, it's almost impossible to find anyone when you need a technical question answered (and the ones that can answer it want to charge you).

      So if you want an answer as to why some people make the "courageous" decision to move to *nix - the answer is they don't know any better ;-)
      tonymcs1
  • Did the topic change?

    This is about following the argument.

    At the start of the Comment:

    Notice that if you???re interested in helping shape larger scale corporate business decisions on long term platform partners you???re really not going to care much about either company???s claims to run most Linux software or about the cultural implications of either architecture???s presence on Sourceforge. What you are going to care about are first your own applications - do they work? are they supported? - and secondly what third party vendor commitment to either ???platform??? can tell you about how people are likely to view your decision five years from now.

    Your subject seems to be "your own applications", and the implicaytion is, they are already present.


    At the end of the Comment:

    "So unless somebody wants to take the time to evaluate every listing from both companies what this comes down to is a simple bottom line bet: if you pre-commit to Solaris on SPARC and then start hunting for just the right application, your chances of success are on the order of ten times better than if you pre-commit to AIX on Power."

    Here the topic seems to be the availability of new applications.


    Those are both important issues. But they're different, no?!
    Anton Philidor
    • No.

      You simply wouldn't consider AIX is the answer the first question is a strong No. Hence the level playing field assuption that it's a yes - followed by the question: what happens when things change? what're the odds that a business change forces a development project with AIX vs and COTS purchase with Solaris?
      murph_z
      • Sorry, Murph.

        Not to be jejune, but understanding this sentence has been an unsuccessful effort:

        "You simply wouldn't consider AIX is the answer the first question is a strong No."

        From context, I think you're giving AIX a pass on a situation involving software change and so making the topic moot before beginning a discussion of new applications available. But clarification would be appreciated.
        Anton Philidor
        • oops - that's "if" not "is" - sorry ;) (NT)

          <P>
          murph_z
          • Thanks

            Remarkable what happens when a single letter is changed.

            Anyway, my guess was correct. You did declare the initial question, applications owned, moot in order to move to a different question, applications available.
            Anton Philidor
  • Quality, not quantity.

    Suppose for a given functionality there's an application so effective and complete that the competition has disappeared. In that situation, wouldn't the approach Murph used indicate that the market was inadequately served?

    Conversely, Mr. Berlind has been arguing (with problematic assertions) that all the available spam fighting software is inadequate. Let's say he's right. In that situation, wouldn't the approach Murph used indicate that the market was fully served?

    And what would his approach show about a market with many competitors lacking essential features, or made obsolete by a change in law or other conditions?

    I think that raw counts will not indicate reliably the condition of a software market.
    Anton Philidor
    • How then?

      "I think that raw counts will not indicate reliably the condition of a software market."

      Anything other than raw counts and numbers are subject to the biases and knowledge and experiences of the reviewer, which I'm sure you would be quick to point out. So how do you suggest measuring it?
      Ed Burnette
      • Ask.

        You're right that any single view is "subject to the biases and knowledge and experiences of the reviewer". Not everyone is a knowledgeable contrarian able to explain each alternative reasonably and completely. And the quality of an opinion does not vary with the hourly rate of the holder of the opinion.

        Further, not everyone is looking for the same answer. If no product is perfect - or, let's say, in markets Microsoft has not yet entered - then the potential buyer will probably emphasize some virtues or faults over others.

        So the answer is to obtain every opinion possible in any manner reasonably available, until the potential buyer is the expert the market should have. And then publish experience and judgment somehow.

        Evaluating software products is the sort of development that does benefit from an open approach, with advantage to employment.
        Anton Philidor
    • Agreed

      COunts are indicative, not definitive.
      murph_z
  • RE: Solaris/SPARC vs AIX/Power (1)

    Here is another site listing IBM AIX applications:

    IBM Global Solutions Directory
    http://www-304.ibm.com/jct09002c/gsdod/search.do

    Unfortunately, it only lets you search applications added after January 1, 2005. Each year IBM updates the search choices so it can only look back a total of three years.

    AIX 5.3 was released in August 2004, so the tool will underestimate applications.

    Still, it shows 1,554 apps. The actual number is probably about 2,000.

    Beware when OS and processor vendors count apps. It is easy to double count apps, even if the binary is the same. For an example, the same Oracle 10.2.0.2 binary might run on both AIX 5.2 and AIX 5.3. Does that count as two AIX apps (likely, if IBM is estimating 8,000 apps), or does it count only once?

    As I pointed out, AIX 5.3 probably supports about 2,000 apps. I seemed to remember AIX 5.2 supported between 2,000 and 2,500. AIX 5.1 stalled around 2,000 apps because AIX 5.2 came out fairly quickly. AIX 4.3 supported about 3,500 apps. None of the AIX releases since have hit anywhere near that. 2,000 seems to be the peak for AIX. I also seemed to recall HP-UX for Itanium also stalled at around 2,000 apps.

    The 8,000 AIX apps is probably the sum total (duplicates included) of AIX 5.1, AIX 5.2, and AIX 5.3, along with triple counting any open source apps. I have seen IBM presentations where they claimed thousands of open source apps simply because the source code was available. Of course the customer would have to port and debug those apps.

    Similarly, HP made claims that all 14,000 HP-UX apps ever written could run on HP-UX on Itanium because they offered a PA-RISC emulator. Nevermind few if any ISVs has said they will support legacy PA-RISC applications on an emulator on Itanium.

    Finally, take note of Sun's Project eTude. This is the ability to run a Solaris 8 Container on Solaris 10. It is not this level of compatibility which is interesting. It is the fact once this technology is perfected, Sun is likely to include it going forward. So Solaris 11 would be able to run Solaris 10 Containers, Solaris 12 would be able to support Solaris 11 and Solaris 10 Containers, etc. In such a case, even if the OS in end of lifed, the app could live on. It would also mean Solaris 11 would have 5,000 apps day one, assuming the ISV supported its application running in such an environment.
    meh1309
  • To register...

    I have been registered, an IBM_ID that is, for years - got started with the pc support, and as I grow, my registration grows.

    I looked up the ISV registration link - you might need another one.

    http://www-1.ibm.com/partnerworld/pwhome.nsf/weblook/pub_join_allBPs.html

    Another link I got, about PartnerWorld in general is: http://www-1.ibm.com/partnerworld/pwhome.nsf/weblook/index.html

    What I gathere is that PartnerWorld is a program for ISV and other "sellers" of IBM related products - including Linux, AIX and/or Power.

    For the record, I am AIX biased, never having had the opportunity to work with Sun or Solaris.. And i is my expectation that Sun has a similar program for ISV's and other "sellers".

    And, in closing, you hinted you might be biased towards Solaris. Nice understatement.

    Michael
    MichaelAM