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HP and Novell double team Sun

Torched by Transitive

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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. ®

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