HP and Novell double team Sun
Torched by Transitive
Technology Forum HP and Novell grabbed hold of their Transitive stick this week and smacked around poor Sun Microsystems.
Come July, HP's Itanium-based server customers will be able to run Solaris/SPARC applications on top of Linux via Transitive's QuickTransit software. The Itanium play adds to HP's existing deal with Transitive around moving Solaris/SPARC applications to Xeon- and Opteron-based ProLiant servers. Few things please HP more than Solaris/SPARC defections, making Transitive a lovely partner.
Novell too wants in on the Solaris spanking. The Linux maker has upped Transitive's partner status to the vaunted "Silver" level and even blessed Transitive with Novell Ready logo certification. That logo means war.
Like HP, Novell sees Sun's massive customer base as a ripe audience. So, it's asking customers to chuck out their old SPARC-based systems in favor of running Solaris apps on SLES 10 x86 boxen.
Transitive is perhaps best known for crafting the Rosetta software used by Apple to run older PowerPC applications on its new Intel-based computers. With Apple's chip transition well done, Transitive would now like to increase its march on the data center. And, in fact, the company has achieved much of this goal in style, inking major deals with the likes of IBM – to run Linux x86 software on Power boxes – and HP. Even Sun has endorsed Transitive for help moving Solaris/SPARC software to Solaris x86.
"The OEM business is good, but it's hard to predict," said Ian Robinson, a VP at Transitive, during an interview here at the HP Technology Forum. "For example, once we move the Apple software to x86, there's no new opportunity.
"Basically, the Apple deal gave us enough momentum and money to put our own products out and gave us the ability to get these enterprise products. In the end, the enterprise business is more predictable and smooths out revenue."
Transitive's executives call Silicon Valley home, although most of its staff work in Manchester.
The Manchester development team has managed to create translation software that can port unmodified apps for one chip architecture to another architecture with relative ease. The Transitive engine does result in about a 20 per cent performance hit on average, if you're doing apples vs. apples comparisons. As it turns out, though, the company does not play with apples, except when it plays with Apple. [Sorry. So very, very sorry – Ed.]
Take, for example, a five-year-old Solaris app running on a grizzled UltraSPARC chip. Move that software over to a fresh x86 box, and you're going to see a dramatic speedup. So, customers running lots of legacy or homegrown code who don't want to deal with a recompile or with crafting software for a new architecture can jump on QuickTransit and take advantage of the latest and greatest x86 hardware.
The same basic premise holds for the numerous ISVs out there that put most of their development effort into Solaris. You can write a fresh Solaris 10 app and then use QuickTransit to sell your software for other processor architectures.
Looking past the data center, Transitive is open to doing more one off projects for companies that have very specialized applications – like, say, a flight simulator – which need a new hardware boost. It could start going after mobile devices as well, Robinson said.
Those of you wondering how the translation magic happens can have a look here. ®
How does this tie in with HP's Solaris/x86 strategy?
I really can't see the niche for this approach, let alone that it should be mainstream. Consider:
1. If I were an ISV, I would be unlikely to support my Solaris/SPARC application running on top of Transitive.
2. If I were moving a current, supported application onto x86, my first choice would be Solaris x86 - running transitive on x86 would be very much a second best solution
3. If the app is out of support then, unless it was using non-standard API, Sun's binary compatibility guarantee means it will run on a current SPARC box under Solaris 10, in a container for first choice.
Snag for HP (and IBM) is that they hoped Sun would die, and they could hoover up the customer base. This toolset is clearly geared towards being the "post Sun" vendor of choice. Instead, Sun is going through an impressive rollout with Niagara and APL machines (and Rock now in the lab), and with disruptive innovations in Solaris 10 - and Gartner (one of the most lagging indicators of the lot) has them as "positive", with Solaris as "strong positive".
HP may get some customer's to buy into the Transitive approach, but their real problem is that they've placed big bets on GNU/Linux on x86 being a killer platform. Sun's renaissance, and especially Solaris/x86, has meant that this platform is no longer an automatic choice, and has to stand against the choices on its merits.
That's nice, but...
Having reviewed/researched many of these "cross platform" applications to support migrating customers, Transitive as a tool is nice, but in the real world, there's no support for your typical "Off-the-shelf" application. So, this aids in migrating home grown applications, but is relatively useless for your typical Oracle, SAP, or other "common" application.
We've found that recompiling the application for the new environment or leveraging the available application (when it exists for the new environment) is the best way to go.
Also, in the best case, you can migrate an existing license to cover the application running on the new environment. In the worst case, you are forced to buy a new license. You have to compare this to the support costs that you are paying for the current environment.
In the end, I have found none of these tools to be the "Holy Grail" that some people tout them to be. Like any tool available to you, you need to properly evaluate the true feasability and ROI.