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Big Blue sky settles over Sun

Forget about Windows, it's Unix that has the most to fear from a rising Linux market share. A partnership announced by Red Hat and IBM this week aims to convert Solaris users to Linux with a free assessment as the carrot on the stick.

Unfortunately for Solaris, not only has IBM intensified its offers to migrate users from Unix to Red Hat Linux, they're offering to do the initial assessment free of charge.

On Monday, Big Blue made a joint announcement with Linux vendor Red Hat that included IBM migration assessments free of charge for qualifying customers.

Both IBM and Red Hat are calling the assessment a "Solaris-to-Linux Migration Factory," which also includes additional support tools designed to assist customer migration from Solaris to multi-platform Linux servers.

According to IBM, the assessments are no charge to customers and are designed to help answer questions and determine the right migration strategy to Linux.

Once the assessment is completed, customers can decide if they want to continue with the migration, and at that point a set of support tools and services is engaged, including Solaris to Linux seminars; a Solaris on SPARC to Linux x86 porting guide; and a 35-city road show focused on Solaris-to-Linux on OpenPower.

Each of the migration tools, educational seminars, and porting guides are scheduled to be introduced in June.


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This point in the history of Solaris is an important one for those vendors who have heavily promoted Linux as an alternative, because a significant portion of Sun's installed base is getting older and will soon be in need of upgrades, said analyst Jim Balderston with the Union City, Calif.-based Sageza Group.

Sun is also sending this message to its customers in an attempt to move them up to Solaris 10, Balderston said.

"That Sun's installed base is getting threadbare is not really in dispute," he said. "The company's largest single year of sales was in 2000, and it has continued to lose market share and sales engagements since that year."

Balderston argued that IBM is well positioned to take advantage of this period of server history, with its greater Linux server share than competitors HP or Dell, and with more than 360 middleware products running on Linux as well as 6,000 applications ported to the operating environment.

"The company has 12,000 Linux engagements around the world and has already completed more than 3,000 Solaris to Linux migrations to date," he said.

The Solaris migrations are reflective of a greater worldwide trend of Linux growth, which Balderston puts at greater than 50% in both revenue growth and unit growth. IBM further compounds, noting that Linux revenue growth is seven times that of any other server platform and that the only growing version of Unix is IBM AIX.

"When Linux first began making noise in the market, many speculated that it would do the most harm to the market share of Windows servers, based largely on the quasi-religious nature of the open source versus proprietary software models," Balderston said. "While Linux revenue is growing much faster than that of Windows-based servers, the Microsoft product still holds a commanding 4:1 revenue edge in 2004 figures.

"However, back when Linux was being positioned as a 'Windows killer,' [analysts] argued that it was Unix that faced the greatest threat from the nascent Linux movement and reality has validated this in spades," Balderston said.

In this type of market environment, Balderston said he has seen IBM pushing Linux into all sectors of the market.

"This is clearly a company putting its money where its press releases and mouth are," he said. "The smart path is to let those who own the customer relationship make the calls and equip them with the tools and revenue opportunities to generate success. IBM continues to make the case that it is going after small business opportunities with much more than marketing fluff or smoke and mirrors."

Balderston said the Solaris-to-Linux migration effort is the latest evidence of this midmarket push. If successful, the push threatens to make Sun reach a near permanent state of 'Winter Solstice' in the coming years.

The "factory" announcement is in line with a similar announcement IBM made during LinuxWorld Boston earlier this year. That announcement involved a program called Chiphopper.

Chiphopper, according to IBM vice president of Linux Scott Handy, is a no-charge worldwide program that assists ISVs who wish to take their existing x86-based Linux applications and easily test, port, and support them across all of IBM's systems.

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