Industry rivals IBM and Sun Microsystems are burying the hatchet more deeply this week, with the companies announcing that Big Blue will distribute Sun's Solaris operating system on IBM's Intel-based servers and blades.
IBM has offered some support for Solaris OS on select IBM BladeCenter servers in the past, but this new pact makes Sun an officially supported option for Big Blue customers. As part of the deal, IBM and Sun will support interoperability via open standards.
"IBM provides the broadest choice of server platforms and operating systems to customers with AIX, Linux for x86 and Power, Microsoft Windows Server, and now Solaris," Bill Zeitler, senior vice president in IBM's Systems and Technology Group, said in a statement.
"IBM is the first major x86 vendor to have such an agreement with Sun," he added, "and the first big vendor apart from Sun to offer Solaris on blade servers."
Sun Micro's Elation
As part of the expanded support, Sun and IBM will invest in testing and system qualification to help customers get the most from Solaris on BladeCenter and System x servers. The IBM BladeCenter HS21 and LS41 servers and IBM System x3650, System x3755, and System x3850 servers are included in the Solaris deal.
"We're thrilled to be working with IBM to bring the Solaris OS to the broadest market possible -- they are a natural partner for Sun," Jonathan Schwartz, president and CEO of Sun Microsystems, said in a statement.
Schwartz took the opportunity to toot Solaris' horn, noting that the OS is gaining momentum in the open source and commercial communities thanks in part to bundled virtualization for servers and storage, developer support, and operational economics.
End of the Horse Race?
The I.T. industry loves a horse race and it is difficult to think of one that has been more competitive or contentious than that between IBM and Sun, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
When former CEO Scott McNealy was holding the reins, King noted, Sun treated IBM as its primary enemy and regularly denigrated IBM products. At the same time, he added, Sun demonstrated a remarkably sincere degree of flattery for IBM in the developing shape of its services business.
"This reflects a curious point in the world of I.T. professional services, where IBM's Global Services organization stands as one of the largest sellers of Sun server solutions. Melodramatic I.T. marketing bluster aside, the first order of business for any successful vendor is to provide customers the products they need and want, regardless of who designs and delivers them," King said. "That essential pragmatism lies at the heart of the new IBM/Sun agreement."
King said the IBM-Sun agreement should help ensure Solaris-on-System x customers realize optimum performance and service. The bottom line, he concluded, is this: Adding mission-critical Solaris capabilities and applications to IBM's flagship computing platform produces a formidable combination that should be remarkably beneficial to both IBM, Sun, and their myriad enterprise customers.