IBM tempts Solaris users to make Linux switch

IBM last week launched a migration program aimed at luring users of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Unix servers to convert to Linux systems built around Intel processors.

The new program escalates an already intense rivalry between the two server vendors. IBM and Sun have been targeting each other's users with similar migration incentives as part of a pitched battle for Unix server market share. Now IBM is adding Linux technology to the fray.

IBM said it will offer Sun Solaris users a step-by-step blueprint for moving to models of its Intel-based eServer systems that are running Linux. The Solaris-to-Linux program includes a total-cost-of-ownership analysis that compares the two environments and assistance from IBM in migrating databases, applications, storage devices and other technologies.

IBM will deploy what it's referring to as a "SWAT team" of systems architects, database administrators and project managers to help users with Linux testing and deployment work. In addition, IBM announced a preconfigured Linux server cluster and several new systems that can run either Linux or Windows.

IBM will also help software vendors convert their Solaris-based applications. QualTel Inc., a Portland, Ore.-based maker of messaging software for telecommunications companies, is taking advantage of the IBM program to migrate its products to Linux. That will let QualTel offer lower-cost options at a time when its users are demanding them, said John Pucknell, the firm's chief technology officer. "With the telecom industry downturn, most of our customers are looking for ways to cut costs," he said.

But Shahin Khan, Sun's chief competitive officer, dismissed the IBM program as a "lame" response to Sun's introduction last week of its LX50 low-end server, an Intel Corp.-based system that can run either Linux or Solaris.

"There's very little to it -- just a couple of products and a lot of people," Khan said. "What's driving the IBM effort is that we have a Linux offering and we didn't have one before. That changes the game."

Sun has its own migration program, called Blue Away, that was initially aimed at IBM mainframe users and then extended earlier this year to include users of IBM's Intel-based Non-Uniform Memory Architecture servers after the systems were discontinued. IBM, in turn, has other programs targeting Sun.

Such migration services make sense in some situations but not all, said Charles King, an analyst at The Sageza Group Inc. in Mountain View, Calif. Switching from one low-end server to another is relatively easy, King said.

But with high-end applications, "the technical complexity involved in migrating everything to a different environment is not trivial," King said.

In a related development, Hewlett-Packard Co. unveiled a software porting assessment service aimed at Unix users -- including those on Solaris and IBM's AIX -- that are considering migrating to Linux. HP also detailed a disaster recovery and business continuity service for Linux systems.

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