Predict the future, rewrite history

While sitting around this evening listening to the zdnet, David Berlind and Redmonk webcast, Monkcast #12: IBM HW group OEMs Solaris to chagrin of SW group & a fly in VMware’s ointment and both on the show and a web article, a few things came up that were worth commenting on, if for no other reason than to save history from being rewritten:

IBM Support for Apache – on the Monkcast Stephen O’grady and David Berlind, at one point Berlind asked if IBM’s support for Apache and the Apache license was to “needle the GPL and SUN”. Nope, not even close. Back in the early days of the web when Netscape and Microsoft were fighting out for web dominance, IBM had its’ web server and were getting serious about WebSphere, we needed a consistent, open http platform to build on. We were in a distant 3rd or 4th place with our http server and we had numerous forks to support the different platforms it ran on, including OS/2, MVS/ESA and AIX. The best deal all around was to exploit and invest in Apache as a standard implementation, which we’d already been involved with.

If I remember the lineage correctly it was an implementation of the NCSA HTTPd > IBM Internet Connection Sever > IBM Internet Connection Secure Server > Domino Go WebServer > IBM HTTP Server. I’m not the right person to comment on the actual codebases for each of these but distinctly remember some of the discussions around the time Domino Go was dropped for the Apache based IBM HTTP Server for inclusion in WebSphere Application Server.

While Stephen and David speculated on the discussions between IBM Systems and Technology Group and IBM Software Group over the recent Solaris announcement, neither was prepared to speculate about the business applications and software you’d run on Solaris on IBM Servers. IBM SWG Products like WebSphere, Domino and DB2 would be a good start, as would SAP, and Oracle. They should all work on IBM System x.

Over in the IT Jungle, Timothy Prickett Morgan hints at some interesting speculation on the same topic, but for the future. He writes in “Solaris Coming to the System i?” two things that deserve comment.The first is the assertion was “IBM was doing everything it could to try to kill Sun with impressive Power-based servers and its own AIX environment, and when AIX didn’t work, IBM brought out the Linux lever to dislodge Sun from customer accounts.” – Well, that’s rewriting history. Solaris wasn’t even in the discussions when we committed to Linux. It was all about open, and choice then, as it is now.

If you remember it was a time that Microsoft was continually extending it’s reach, rather than being on the back foot as it is now. Linux seemed to offer the perfect counter, it was open, it was extensible and it was being rapidly being picked up in the nascent technology powerhouses of China and India. IT was clear that we needed to do some re-alignment of our technology portfolio, and Linux was the perfect catalyst.

And since when didn’t “AIX work”? Last numbers I saw had IBM as having more than 50% of the Server UNIX marketplace. I’m sure there are spins on that number that prove one thing or another, anyway you slice of dice it AIX is great business, enjoyed and exploited by a large number of successful customers.

Second Morgan doesn’t offer any reasons why or justification for the headline that goes with the article. Since System i now runs on Power hardware, that would mean someone was doing a port of Solaris to Power. Not that we know about, but maybe, just maybe. If that were true that really would be a nail in the coffin for Sparc hardware and possibly Sun as a hardware company. Solaris on IBM x86; Solaris on IBM mainframes and Solaris, Linux, AIX and i5/OS on Power. Now thats choice for SUN and IBM customers ;-), wouldn’t that be a more interesting future?

2 Responses to “Predict the future, rewrite history”

  1. 1 John Willis August 29, 2007 at 10:47 am

    “Last numbers I saw had IBM as having more than 50% of the Server UNIX marketplace.”

    It always amazes me that the analysts and the experts act like AIX doesn’t exist.

  1. 1 James Governor’s Monkchips » links for 2007-08-23 Trackback on August 23, 2007 at 5:28 pm

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About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I am a Fellow of the British Computer Society ( I'm an information technology optimist.

I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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