IBM broadens its support for Sun's Solaris software
Says it will begin offering OS on more of its x86-based systems
Under the agreement, IBM will begin distributing Solaris and offering Sun's customer service plans on its System x3650, x3755 and x3850 servers and its BladeCenter HS21 and LS41 machines. IBM already supported Sun's Unix derivative on some BladeCenter systems.
The extended support for Solaris is part of IBM's strategy to offer users a range of operating systems, and the deal gives Sun a boost in its effort to have Solaris run on a wider set of hardware. IBM will also continue to sell its own AIX version of Unix as well as Windows and several distributions of the open-source Linux operating system.
During a conference call today, Sun President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz described the expanded partnership between the two server rivals as a "tectonic shift" in the marketplace.
But both Schwartz and Bill Zeitler, senior vice president of IBM's systems and technology group, were quick to emphasize that the increased ties don't mean either company is giving up on its own products.
"I don't see a single operating system as being the choice," Zeitler said. "Customers and markets make choices. Mature vendors react by responding to those requirements." He added that although IBM still sees AIX as "an excellent, highly scalable and reliable offering," the vendor is also a pragmatist. "A lot of customers love Solaris and are loyal to it," Zeitler said.
Under the terms of the new agreement, IBM becomes a distributor and reseller of Solaris. For now, at least, it is the only major hardware vendor to have that designation.
"I can tell you our deal with HP is at arm's length," Schwartz said, referring to an existing relationship between Sun and Hewlett-Packard Co. HP offers Solaris on its ProLiant servers, but the broadened agreement with IBM "is really the strongest with any partner in the marketplace and will hopefully set the tone for other relationships," Schwartz said. "IBM stands alone."
"I'm very proud to be the first of the Tier 1 vendors who will have an agreement with Sun like this," Zeitler said. "I imagine we're not the last, but I'm pleased we're the first."
Schwartz pointed to other collaborations between IBM and Sun, most notably on encouraging the use of Sun's Java technology, and said he's hopeful that the new deal involving Solaris could eventually be as significant. Future development possibilities include building support for IBM's provisioning tools and Director suite of systems management software into Solaris, Schwartz added.
IBM and Sun currently are collaborating on driver and system optimization work as well as the testing of Solaris on the System x and BladeCenter servers that will support the operating system. Zeitler said he expects that work to be completed within the next 90 days, after which IBM will be able to formally offer the operating system to its customers on the designated machines.
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