IBM has decided to lend Red Hat a helping hand in its struggle to wrest server operating system market share from Sun Microsystems. This week the two companies are expected to announce a range of initiatives designed to woo users of Sun's Solaris operating system over to Red Hat Linux.
IBM's System and Technology group will begin offering free migration assessments to Solaris customers who want to know more about the costs and benefits of moving from Solaris to Red Hat Linux. Over the past year, IBM's AIX group has sponsored about 500 such assessments for Solaris and HP-UX users, and the company now hopes to complete up to twice as many Linux assessments by year's end, according to Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide Linux at IBM.
IBM sells both Red Hat Linux and Novell's Suse Linux on a wide variety of its hardware, including its xSeries, pSeries and zSeries servers, but these initiatives were designed in partnership with Red Hat, Handy said. Red Hat Linux is also offered on servers from other hardware vendors.
The migration assessments will be conducted by the team of 150 engineers that IBM acquired in 2003 when it purchased the application porting services division of Sector7 USA, Handy said. The assessments will be generally available to customers starting June 1, he said.
IBM has also been working with 22 financial services software vendors, including Cameron Systems and TimesTen, to help them port their Solaris products over to Linux. To date, these vendors have moved 33 of an anticipated 48 total applications over to Linux, Handy said.
A third component of the program will be IBM's sponsorship of seminars and educational events designed to help customers with their Linux migration questions, Handy said.
Over the past year, Sun has taken pains to repair its reputation among Wall Street IT departments, traditionally a stronghold for the computer maker. In June 2004, Sun formed a special division to reclaim financial customers who had moved to Linux, and over the past few years it has increasingly promoted Solaris on Advanced Micro Devices's Opteron microprocessors as a less expensive alternative to its UltraSparc-based systems.
Sun has also gone out of its way to attack Red Hat's Linux distribution, calling it an incompatible variation, or "fork," of Linux, and Sun has promoted Solaris on Opteron as a technically superior alternative to Red Hat Linux.
IBM hopes that the new programs will help counter some of Sun's rhetoric, Handy said. "We decided it was really important that we partner with Red Hat in addressing this challenge."
But the more important reason behind the initiatives has to do with timing, Handy said. With much of the Sun equipment bought during the Internet boom years now depreciated, IBM sees a chance to sell its own hardware into these accounts, he said. "Those servers are now 4 1/2 years old, so the real bulk of the Solaris-to-Linux migration is a wave that's occurring now," Handy said. "There are more efficient, faster, more cost-effective servers on the market than there were then. If they haven't already been replaced, it's prime time now."
Customers can sign up for the migration assessment program and learn more details of IBM's programs at the following Website: http://www.ibm.com/linux/advantage/solaris.