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IBM sues plug-compatible mainframe startup

IBM has sued Platform Solutions, Inc. for taking z/OS and OS/390, its mainframe operating systems, and adapting it for its Intel-based systems.

IBM has filed a lawsuit claiming that patents for its mainframe operating systems have been violated by a California company that suited them for its own hardware, according to a report in InformationWeek.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based plug-compatible mainframe (PCM) company PSI Inc., was formed in 1999 from the remnants of defunct PCM vendor Amdahl, with backing from Intel Capital and other investors. The machine can run Windows, Linux, Unix and, most importantly to mainframers, z/OS on a single machine.

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IBM claims that its investment in mainframes is undermined by Platform Solutions' methods.

According to the InformationWeek report, IBM claims that Platform Solutions is falsely claiming to potential customers that Big Blue will license its operating systems on Platform Solutions' servers, refused to let IBM examine one of its systems, and responded to claims of patent infringement by threatening to file antitrust litigation.

Christian Reilly, PSI's VP of product management and marketing of platform solutions, declined to comment on the details of the lawsuit, but did say that "PSI is very disappointed that IBM has decided to file this lawsuit against us. We believe the suit is unjustified."

"The timing of this action is no coincidence," he added. "We've recently won mainframe server deals. Customers have not had a choice or alternative for years and they're solidly behind PSI as an open mainframe alternative. IBM sees us as real competition and this only validates the need for choice in the marketplace."

Joe Clabby, president of Yarmouth, Maine-based analyst firm Clabby Analytics, said that Platform Solutions' makeshift method of adapting z/OS and OS/390 for Itanium-based systems is likely to run into problems.

"When you're replacing specialized processors that IBM makes for System z with Itanium processors, there are likely to be different system calls that don't match up," he said. "You talk to your processors differently. In the case of Itanium, that's an EPIC processor, and that has a completely different instruction set than what's being used in RISC processors of IBM mainframe processors."

The bottom line, Clabby added, is that Platform Solutions' adaptation of z/OS could have hiccups and, as a result, make the operating system and IBM look bad. Besides, he said, "it's not their OS to play with."

InformationWeek reported that IBM filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York and wants the court to prohibit Platform Solutions from selling its systems and pay IBM financial damages. Big Blue also wants the court to state that its mainframe business doesn't violate antitrust laws.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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