IBM and Red Hat put the squeeze on Sun

IBM and Red Hat put the squeeze on Sun

IBM and Red Hat Inc. on Tuesday launched a service aimed at enticing customers to migrate from Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris operating system over to Linux, a move meant to up the pressure on Sun.

The service, which will be offered through the IBM Systems and Technology Group, includes a pre-sales assessment that will take a look at a customer's installation and recommend the most appropriate migration strategy at no charge. "Based on our experience, the number-one issue is that customers don't know just how easy a Unix-to-Linux migration is, which is why we are offering to cover the cost of the initial assessment for qualified customers," Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide Linux for IBM, said in a statement.

IBM and Red Hat are tightening the screws on Sun just as it struggles to reverse its sales slide. In its fiscal third-quarter results reported last month, Sun narrowed its losses, but revenues fell 1 percent to $2.625 billion from $2.651 billion in the same period a year ago.

In 2004, Sun continued to lead the overall Unix market with a 31.8 percent market share, but sales fell 5.3 percent to $5.1 billion, according to market analysts Gartner Inc. Hewlett-Packard Co., which held the number two position, saw its revenues slip 7.8 percent, but third-place IBM increased sales by 7 percent. Overall revenues for Unix servers fell 2.8 percent in 2004 to $16.2 billion from $16.6 billion in 2003, according to Gartner.

"Sun is against the ropes, but they're still fighting hard," said Gordon Haff, analyst for market researcher Illuminata Inc.. "They still have opportunity, but they're going to have to return to profitability."

As a reflection of how it's playing hardball against Sun, IBM highlighted its focus with the new service on the financial services industry, a traditionally strong market for Sun. Those companies, along with many others across industries, have been opting to move from their older Unix systems to cheaper Linux computers. "There's certainly been a lot of Solaris to Linux migration going on," Haff said. "That's been Sun's big problem."

The IBM-Red Hat service is for migrations to Linux on IBM eServer xSeries, BladeCenter, iSeries, pSeries, OpenPower and zSeries platforms. The no-charge assessment covers business and technical impacts, and can include the movement of Solaris-attached storage to IBM TotalStorage.

The for-fee services include migration from Solaris C/C++ environments to Linux, as well as migration of Oracle databases from non-IBM Windows and Unix platforms to Red Hat and Novell Suse Linux on IBM platforms. In addition, IBM plans to market the service through seminars and other educational events for developers.

Because Solaris and Linux are both variants of Unix, migrating from one platform to another is fairly straightforward. "Compared to moving from Windows to Linux, moving Solaris to Linux is quite easy," Haff said. "It's on par with moving Solaris to [IBM's] AIX."

Nevertheless, companies would have to carefully evaluate the benefits of migrating from Solaris, which still has unique capabilities in performance, network monitoring and security, Haff said. In addition, there are more enterprise-level applications available for Solaris. "I wouldn't give any vendor a blanket recommendation, but there are circumstances where Sun is still the best answer," Haff said.

In February, IBM announced a program that offered support and testing tools to help independent software vendors build Linux versions of their applications. IBM claims the program has led to more than 100 new applications being available on IBM eServers running Linux.

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