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Sun and IBM partner on Solaris?!Raven Zachary, August 16, 2007 @ 9:07 pm ET
IBM and Sun Microsystems announced today a deal whereby IBM will distribute Solaris on select x86 systems from IBM. IBM customers will now have the option, in some cases, to select Solaris as an operating system, alongside Microsoft Windows, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). From the press release (press release):
IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Sun (Nasdaq: SUNW) today announced that IBM will distribute the Solaris(TM) Operating System (OS) and Solaris Subscriptions for select x86-based IBM System x servers and BladeCenter servers to clients through IBM’s routes to market.
The agreement announced today is an extension of IBM’s existing support for the Solaris OS on select IBM BladeCenter servers, and exemplifies IBM’s commitment to offering clients the widest choice of operating systems available in the industry, as well as Sun’s commitment to offer customers a wider choice of systems for the Solaris platform. IBM and Sun’s support of interoperability via open standards also means that customers will be able to extend their infrastructure by connecting new platforms easily, while preserving their initial investments.
The joint press release focuses on ‘increased customer choice’ as the primary driver for this deal. IBM will continue to offer multiple operating systems options, and continue to invest in its own UNIX operating system, AIX. Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz calls it a “tectonic shift in the marketplace – bringing together erstwhile competitors to serve a marketplace IBM and Sun agree is bigger than the both of us” (blog entry). Sun has already partnered with another hardware vendor concerning Solaris x86 – HP. However, the IBM deal is more substantive than the existing deal with HP.
You can’t compete in the technology industry these days without getting cozy with the enemy, it seems. IBM and Sun Microsystems are now working together on…Solaris. Huh? No, this isn’t about ODF or Java or the industry’s love affair with ‘green’ computing we’re talking about here. It’s about Solaris, that operating system that IBM competes with on two fronts (AIX and Linux). The same IBM that has a ‘Solaris-to-Linux customer migration‘ offering with Red Hat, the same IBM that said there was no room for three operating system communities. But, we live in an era with blurred lines between partnerships and competition, and it’s just fine for IBM to OEM Solaris while simultaneously trying its best to push Solaris out of the data center.
For Sun, this is about reducing operating system market share loss, and will not result in much revenue generation. Sun has more at stake in this deal than IBM does. Historically, if a customer selected IBM for hardware, Sun was out of the picture. At least with this OEM deal in place, Sun has some opportunity to court IBM xSeries hardware buyers. Sun has gone from losing all of the IBM deal to just losing most of it. Sun’s priority is selling Sun hardware for Solaris, of course, but this presents a ‘Plan B.’
I’m a fan of both Linux and Solaris, having deployed both operating systems in the enterprise. Before the release of the Linux Kernel v2.6, Solaris was my preferred operating system for Java applications, and this was based on very real testing data on both operating systems. Over the years, I’ve heard of more and more Java developers moving to Linux as the preferred operating system platform as the JVM performance gap has narrowed, with many now questioning the relevancy of Solaris. There is significant mindshare concern here, and Sun has some work to do. This IBM deal is one of many such moves that the company must pursue if it wants Solaris to have more significance than, say…AIX?
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