Next for IBM and Sun: Solaris on z mainframes

Having already secured a deal to bring Solaris to IBM's x86 servers and blades, the two companies are looking at bringing OpenSolaris to IBM's System z mainframes

As IBM and Sun laid out a new agreement to have more IBM x86 servers and blades run on Solaris, the two companies were already looking ahead to another partnership, which could see IBM mainframes support the Sun operating system.

The tie-up between IBM's x86 servers and Sun's operating system is likely the first of several such relationships, according to Bill Zeitler, senior vice president of IBM's systems and technology group. "This could hopefully be the beginning of what could be a stronger collaboration between our two firms," he said Thursday during a conference call. "There are a large number of customers interested in Solaris on the mainframe," Zeitler added.

Although there's nothing formal in place yet, IBM is interested in actively collaborating with research and engineering firm Sine Nomine Associates to move OpenSolaris, the open-source version of Solaris, to IBM's System z mainframe, Zeitler said.

In a blog posting on its Web site, Sine Nomine said it welcomed IBM's interest in the project, which the company has been working on since July 2006.

"We'd love to see Solaris running on the mainframe," said Jonathan Schwartz, president and CEO of Sun. "We'd love to make it happen." The tenor of the agreement announced on Thursday is that for both Sun and IBM "our eyes are wide open and we're interested in serving more customers," he added.

As teams from IBM and Sun work closely together on optimizing and testing Solaris on IBM's System x and BladeCenter servers, Zeitler expects they'll find more and more areas to collaborate on.

The IBM executive wouldn't speculate on what might happen with IBM's System p servers, which use its Power processor, and Solaris. However, he did add, "It's something I'd like to see; it certainly makes sense." The open-source community has already ported OpenSolaris to IBM's Power chip.

Back in January, Sun Chairman Scott McNealy said he'd like to see Solaris running on Power with or without IBM's help. McNealy was speaking just after Sun signed a major alliance with chip giant Intel, and he said he'd welcome a similar arrangement with IBM.

The agreement with Intel enabled Sun to once more begin selling servers based on Intel's processors, while the chip vendor committed to evangelizing Solaris. Sun abandoned Intel as a chip supplier several years ago in favor of rival processor vendor AMD. Sun also makes its own Sparc and UltraSparc chips.

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