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With new Power systems, IBM welcomes Oracle/Sun refugees

A combination of strong server offerings and a beleagured competitor in Oralce/Sun appears to be working to IBM's advantage.

IBM lost out to Oracle in its bid to acquire Sun Microsystems, but may end up being the winner in this game after all, with the company reporting a record number of customer wins away from Oracle/Sun Microsystems hardware on to its Power-based System p boxes.

[IBM has] fought like the Romans. When they're not out doing battle, they're back at camp sharpening their swords.
Jonathan Eunice,
principal IT adviserIlluminata Inc.

IBM said its Migration Factory completed 285 migrations in the past quarter, with 171 from Oracle and 86 from HP. In fact, IBM is on pace to more double the number of migrations it completes this year, with 500 in the first half of 2010, or about the same number as for all of 2009, said Jeff Howard, IBM director of Power systems marketing.

At the same time, IBM completed the rollout of Power systems it began in February, with the introduction today of the new high-end Power 795, with 256 cores and support for 8 TB of main memory; four 'Express' servers, the IBM Power 710, 720, 730 and 740 Express'; and a Power7-based Smart Analytics System. The company also announced AIX 7, the latest incarnation of its Unix operating system.

Availability for the new systems is slated for September 17, one month from now, for what promises to be a competitive fourth quarter, said Jean Bozman, a research vice president for the enterprise platforms group at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

"Server sales had a very bad year in 2009," Bozman said. "All the vendors are looking to make a very big push in Q4 [2010]," with aggressive products and sales tactics.

Making application migration look easy
IBM's Migration Factory is the real deal, said Jonathan Eunice, principal IT adviser at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H. "Migrations of enterprise apps are hard, and there's a lot of perceived risk in doing these moves," he said. "IBM has been extremely successful doing moves with minimal muss and fuss," bringing in not just services, but also technologies from acquisitions like Transitive, which allows applications written for one chip architecture to run on another, and application re-hosting specialists Sector7.

Then there's the strength of the Power systems themselves, which compete effectively in terms of speeds and feeds, as well as with its unified virtualization offerings, Eunice said.

"They've fought like the Romans. When they're not out doing battle, they're back at camp sharpening their swords," Eunice said.

An executive at a large Sun hardware reseller who is weighing a shift in allegiance to IBM said the computing giant's Migration Factory is truly impressive. "I can't believe they don't promote it more than they do," he said earlier this month.

While years of competing against IBM with Sun hardware made for some hard feelings on his part, this exec said IBM's Power systems are the most attractive replacement platform for Sun/Solaris shops. For Sun x86/Linux machines, Hewlett-Packard and Dell offer viable options, he said.

But, ultimately, it may be the weakness of IBM's opponent that is IBM's strongest asset, suggested the director of IT at a large regional utility provider who requested anonymity.

"Look at the Sun roadmap and there isn't one," the IT director told earlier this summer. "In fact, it's almost an anti-roadmap because some of the announcements of higher entities and tech enhancements seem to be back-burnered or canceled. That adds a lot to our risk model."

The utility has an arsenal of about 20 Sparc systems that it plans to roll over to IBM. Oracle did in fact announce some updates to its Sparc/Solaris strategy last week, and more announcements are expected at Oracle OpenWorld next month.

Barbara Darrow contributed to this report. Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, News Director at, or follow @aebarrett on twitter.

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