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IBM Reads Orwell’s “1984,” Tries Rewriting History

IBM had to come up with some cover story or another to contain the fallout

Opening Keynote at Cloud Expo

Once the news got out that it had welched on its 2005 patent pledge to the open source community and had threatened TurboHercules (TH) with patent infringement, IBM had to come up with some cover story or another to contain the fallout. So it switched places with many of its observers and turned conspiracy theorist, accusing Turbo Hercules of guilt by association.

Besides calling TurboHercules a couple of dirty names - a stock response to any threats to its monopoly in order to scare away its rivals' customers...

And besides claiming that it didn't really flat out actually and in fact accuse TH of infringing - "we did not make any explicit assertions or claims," it said, "that TurboHercules had violated" that list of 173 patents and patent applications we sent them under the assertion that "IBM believes [this IP] will be infringed by an emulator [like you]"...

It told the Wall Street Journal - among others - that "In 2005, when IBM announced open access to 500 patents that we own, we said the pledge is applicable to qualified open source individuals or companies. We have serious questions about whether TurboHercules qualifies. TurboHercules is a member of organizations founded and funded by IBM competitors such as Microsoft to attack the mainframe. We have doubts about TurboHercules' motivations."

Say what?

Did you just hear that collective head-snap?

There was absolutely no mention of "qualified open source individuals or companies" in the pledge let alone "motivations."

The statement has the Journal wondering "If TurboHercules doesn't qualify, who does?"; the Financial Times questioning whether the pledge is "worth the paper it's printed on"; and the great open source guru Eric Raymond himself dismissing the promise as "a meaningless confidence trick."

In his opinion, IBM is just "digging itself in deeper" with its retroactive parsing, and he wonders where the adult supervision is.

If he looked a little closer he might wonder whether any adults oversaw any of IBM's mainframe behavior the last few years.

Instead the IBM legal department apparently has an endless supply of lemon juice with which to write in stipulations that don't appear to the naked eye - like that list of forbidden workloads that IBM can't produce but swears can't run on Neon's zPrime software, the only other current threat to its mainframe dominance - because the only disenfranchising string in IBM's 2005 "irrevocable," "legally binding and enforceable" patent pledge - made in the name of advancing innovation - was if the user "files a lawsuit asserting patents or other intellectual property rights against Open Source Software."

Otherwise IBM said the pledge extended to "any Open Source Software," which it defined as "any computer software program whose source code is published and available for inspection and use by anyone, and is made available under a license agreement that permits recipients to copy, modify and distribute the program's source code without payment of fees or royalties. All licenses certified by opensource.org and listed on their web site as of 01/11/2005 are Open Source Software licenses for the purpose of this pledge."

Hercules meets all of those criteria, and TurboHercules is using stock open source Hercules code.

IBM told the Journal in one breathe that "We stand behind the pledge we made in 2005, and also our rights to protect our significant investments in mainframe technology."

Do you think...could it be that IBM sees Hercules as a game changer?

If a mainframe customer can walk a big mainframe app over to an Intel/AMD server and run it with no change and get better performance for 1%-10% of the hardware price then theoretically it's all over for IBM's big iron franchise now isn't it.

The TH guys are reportedly seeing insane performance numbers running mainframe workloads on the latest Nehalem chips. A single commodity server running at 100s of MIPS supposedly has enough power to replace well over half the mainframes in use today.

IBM keeps harping on about how you need 1,500 Intel servers to replace one mainframe. Well that's apparently a lot of baloney, making the great debate about distributed servers versus single mainframes into a joke. Evidently with today's technology a single Intel server can replace a single IBM mainframe.

Now imagine that IBM knows this and that's why it can't let TH exist.

And ironically although IBM won't let its precious OS run on any other platform, it's about to launch the z11 and guess what - it's supposed to have a hardware chip that runs - guess what again - someone else's OS -Windows (or Linux or Solaris x86 or any other x86 OS). So while IBM expects Microsoft and the rest of the Windows ecosystem to blithely agree to run their software on a mainframe, IBM absolutely won't allow mainframe software to run on Windows (or Linux or anything else).

One has to assume it's those 10x to 100x profits it gets for having a locked-in hardware audience for mainframe workloads.

Oh, by the way, lest there be any confusion, TurboHercules has posted all its correspondence with IBM at http://www.turbohercules.com/TH_IBM_Letters/.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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