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IBM's Transitive buy presents interesting server options

Emulation is the sincerest form of fattening

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Perhaps more significantly, now IBM has a lot of leverage in which to create a set of QuickTransit pairings to move emulated applications running on just about any platform over to its Power-based servers. Transitive wanted to sell bullets to all server makers in the platform wars, and thereby make itself rich, with everyone trying to rehost everyone else's stuff. Now, IBM can point all the guns at its rivals and at the same time take their guns away. Presumably HP, Sun, and Apple have contracts that allow them to continue using what they have, but QuickTransit will continue to evolve, supporting 64-bit Linux and other software environments, and presumably get lots of tuning to help boost performance.

IBM could also use QuickTransit to go after customers using its own legacy OS/400 and AIX platforms who have resisted moving ahead to new iron for myriad reasons. iSeries and System i shops wanting to make the most of IBM's new i 6.1 operating systems on Power5, Power5+, and Power6 machines have to do a program conversion to move ahead. (The AS/400 and its successors have something akin to QuickTransit, called the Technology Independent Machine Interface, or TIMI, that compiles to an intermediate, abstract computer interface, and as the underlying hardware is changed, this intermediate code is compiled down to the new iron automagically.) Older System/36 RPG II and System/38 RPG III code running in a different emulation mode could be encapsulated inside QuickTransit, allowing IBM to remove these environments from future i releases. I could even imagine IBM creating a small development environment for its i 6.1 platform that allows it to run - including its compiler tools - on a laptop. Maybe even a Mac...

And even more significantly, Big Blue could use QuickTransit to do something that it was designed to do but which no one has yet done - move mainframe applications to RISC or X64 iron as a last-ditch effort to keep the customers on IBM servers. IBM could also use the software to support older 31-bit mainframe apps on newer 64-bit machines without forcing recompilation and a move to a more recent operating system - and this could be a big deal as well.

IBM could pursue remaining Tru64 Unix customers on AlphaServers as well as OpenVMS customers on AlphaServer and Integrity boxes, too.

IBM has been vague, thus far, on its plans for QuickTransit, other than the obligatory boilerplate in the press release announcing the deal. "The company is committed to developing additional tools and solutions to make migrations even easier, while minimizing the risk and increasing the financial returns for clients as they consolidate and virtualize to achieve significant business benefit."

If the QuickTransit software works as good as it seems to, it is amazing that the company hasn't been acquired earlier. It will be interesting to see what IBM does with it - if the company bothers to admit it when it is using QuickTransit in its products.

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