IBM Says It's Winning Over Sun ISVs, Resellers12:18 PM EST Fri. Aug. 14, 2009
A growing number of Sun Microsystems ISVs and resellers, worried about the impact of the pending acquisition by Oracle, are turning to IBM and joining the company's partner program, according to IBM executives.
Sun partners have raised concerns about the road map for Sun's servers while others are worried that Oracle will increase maintenance and support fees once the acquisition is complete, according to Mark Hanny, vice president of ISV alliances and developer relations at IBM.
"This is something we've been seeing going on for the last 18 to 24 months," Hanny said, adding the trend began even before Oracle and Sun disclosed their acquisition deal in April. "They saw the Sun program atrophying." But several Sun partners called IBM the day the acquisition was announced, he added.
In some cases the ISVs develop software for Sun platforms that compete with Oracle products, according to Hanny.
In just the past two months IBM has had contact with some 200 Sun resellers and ISVs, according to the company, particularly those that play in the Unix market. IBM has reached out to more than 100 of Sun's largest resellers and more than 90 percent of them are "seeking a closer relationship" with IBM, Hanny said. One-third of those previously had no relationship with IBM.
And 70 percent of Sun's 100 largest ISVs are now either porting their software to IBM platforms or developing marketing plans to do so, according to the company. IBM specifically mentioned Amdocs, LHS Group and Siemens PLM among the Sun ISV partners that are allying themselves more closely with IBM.
Sun spokespeople didn't respond to requests for comment on IBM's claims.
Kabira Technologies, a San Mateo, Calif.-based developer of high-performance transaction processing software, is one ISV that's mulling expanding its relationship with IBM because of what CEO Paul Sutton described as "the deathly silence" from Sun and Oracle about the direction of Sun's hardware and software products.
"I need complete visibility into where my technology partners are going because I need to equally provide that visibility to my customers," Sutton said. Kabira's software is used by such businesses as telecommunications companies and credit card issuers for processing high volumes of transactions. Because Kabira has to guarantee its customers a high level of reliability, it needs similar assurances from its technology vendors, he said.
Kabira's software runs on both large-scale and departmental servers. Kabira developed a Linux version of its product three years ago that runs on departmental servers from multiple vendors, but until now the company has relied on Sun servers running the Solaris operating system for mission-critical installations of its software. With unanswered questions about the future of Sun technology, Sutton said Kabira is "beginning a dialogue with IBM" about porting its software to either IBM's Power Systems servers or z Series mainframes.
That follows the pattern of other channel partners IBM is recruiting from Sun, according to Hanny. Many are adopting the IBM Power Systems servers, although some are working with the System x servers and some the System z mainframes.
"The Sun relationship is challenged right now," said an executive at one solution provider that resells servers from Sun and IBM, among other vendors. He asked that he not be identified given the volume of business his company does with Sun. "Customers are concerned. The channel's concerned. We are moving closer to IBM, certainly from a Unix [system] perspective." He added that the reseller is also expanding its relationship with Hewlett-Packard.
While Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has promised that Oracle will continue to sell Sun's hardware after the acquisition, some are skeptical. "Larry could turn around and sell the hardware business to Fujitsu," the solution provider executive said.
Adding to those worries are reports that Sun has canceled its next-generation "Rock" microprocessor development project, said Cal Braunstein, CEO and executive director of research for market researcher Robert Frances Group.
Some of the Sun resellers are not only working with IBM hardware, but now sell IBM's database and middleware products, such as WebSphere and IBM's services-oriented architecture software, in an effort to become more solutions-focused, Hanny said.
The concern among Sun business partners is "fairly widespread" and predates the Oracle acquisition announcement, growing for several years because of Sun's financial struggles, Braunstein said. "I have great difficulty believing Oracle is going to continue Sun's hardware line," Braunstein said. "If I were an ISV, I'd be very worried about it."