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After Transitive acquisition, will IBM shed translation software beneficial to competition?

IBM plans to acquire Transitive Corp., whose translation software enables applications to run on various combinations of CPU and OS. But will IBM continue to enable translation for non-IBM x86 systems?

On Nov. 18, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp. announced plans to acquire Los Gatos, Calif.-based Transitive Corp., a privately held technology company whose translation software enables applications written for one kind of CPU and operating system to run on various combinations of CPU and OS without modifying the source code or binaries. Terms of the deal have not been announced.

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IBM already uses Transitive technology as the basis of its PowerVM Lx86 software, which allows x86 Linux workloads to run on IBM Power-based platforms. Transitive's own QuickTransit is also used to migrate Sun Sparc/Solaris workloads onto Solaris or Linux for x86, or Linux for Itanium.

But IBM's competitors also use Transitive emulation software to lure customers running on competitive platforms. Companies like Hewlett-Packard Co., for example, have touted Transitive's software as an easy way for users to migrate to HP's x86 ProLiant servers. Now that IBM has acquired Transitive, the question is whether IBM will continue to sell Transitive to migrate workloads to HP and non-IBM x86 servers.

"Linux on Power is the technology of choice IBM uses when migrating HP and Sun customers to their platforms," said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, "which is what I suspect [the Transitive software] will end up being used for here. What will happen to the software that translates [applications] over to their competitors' platforms is anyone's guess," King said.

The fate of non-IBM x86
Certainly, IBM didn't offer promises about retaining software offerings that benefit the competition. "IBM plans to continue to offer its PowerVM Lx86 products," said an IBM spokesperson, "which is based on Transitive technology and allows Power Systems servers to run Linux x86 binary applications unmodified without recompilation. IBM is evaluating Transitive's other products as part of its overall Systems product strategy."

 Acquiring Transitive makes sense for IBM, because shifts in the market have favored x86 systems.

Whatever the case, acquiring Transitive makes sense for IBM, because shifts in the market have favored x86 systems, King said. "If IBM has customers on older Unix or mainframe systems that are transitioning off, they would probably be better off creating translation software of their own. But with Transitive, IBM has some tools on hand to help customers do that."

And the acquisition could prove a major competitive advantage for IBM, said Joe Clabby of Clabby Analytics. "HP's Integrity has nothing like this, so this could be a big differentiator," he said. "In fact, when HP is trying to sell Integrity as a mainframe replacement, they switch the topic to blade architecture. … They don't even talk about Linux on Integrity in such cases," Clabby said.

Once the deal closes, Transitive will become part of the IBM Systems and Technology Group, an IBM spokesperson said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer. And check out our data center blogs: Server Farming, Mainframe Propellerhead, and Data Center Facilities Pro.

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