Attack Of The Clone: Mainframe Maker Countersues IBM

"IBM has and is engaged in anti-competitive, deceptive, and tortious acts intended to eliminate competition and prolong its monopoly in the worldwide market for mainframe computers compatible with IBM applications and software," charges Platform Solutions in court papers filed late Friday in federal district court in New York.

IBM originally sued Platform Solutions in December, charging that the company's mainframe clones violate IBM patents on its z/OS operating system as well as patents relating to its previous mainframe operating system, known as OS/390. On its Web site, Platform Solutions claims that it offers a "new generation of compatible mainframe computers designed to meet the rapidly changing business needs of today's enterprise." The company says its Intel 64-bit Itanium-based systems are fully compatible with z/OS and OS/390. IBM typically offers those operating systems for sale only with IBM mainframes running more expensive, dedicated processors of its own manufacture.

In its countersuit Friday, Platform Solutions claims that IBM is attempting to monopolize the mainframe market now that high-end computer makers Amdahl and Hitachi have left the playing field. Platform Solutions now "stands as the only viable threat to IBM's mainframe monopoly," the company claims.

As a result, "IBM has sought to extinguish the threat posed by PSI by conditioning the sale of its mainframe operating systems on the purchase or continued use of an IBM mainframe, and by refusing to license its operating systems to customers of PSI's mainframe computer," says Platform Solutions, in the countersuit.

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IBM's conduct, charges Platform Solutions, "is purely designed to eliminate competition and suppress consumer choice."

Platform Solutions is asking the court to award unspecified damages based on the harm that IBM has allegedly inflicted on its marketing efforts. It's also seeking an injunction that would allow it to continue to sell its mainframe clones without fear of legal reprisal from IBM.

IBM's initial decision to sue Platform Solutions was seen at the time as another indication that the company is becoming more aggressive about defending its intellectual property in an effort to extract more revenue from its extensive patent trove. In October, IBM sued, claiming that Amazon's online sales technology violates a number of IBM e-commerce patents.

IBM says it had little choice but to sue Platform Solutions because the vendor's clone systems put IBM's reputation in jeopardy. IBM claims Platform Solutions' technology won't run its mainframe operating systems properly, and the result could be customer disappointment that might wash over to IBM. "IBM has a strong interest in ensuring that z/OS is not used on computer systems with which z/OS is not fully compatible or used in ways that have the potential to undermine either the reputation of z/OS for accuracy, data integrity, and reliability of z/OS for mission critical applications," IBM says in the original lawsuit.

Platform Solutions was founded in 1999 by a team of engineers that formerly worked at Amdahl. The privately held company bills itself as "The New Choice In Mainframe Computers" and has received funding from Goldman Sachs, Fujitsu, and Itanium manufacturer Intel, among others. Last August, Platform Solutions demonstrated its mainframe clones at a conference in Baltimore held by Share, an IBM user group.