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IBM reneges on Solaris GPFS promise

'A decommitment of intent'

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IBM has a love, hate, love, hate, hate, hate relationship with Solaris, Sun Microsystems' Unix variant. And becoming an OEM partner of Sun's to distribute Solaris has apparently changed none of that.

Back in August 2007, IBM and Sun inked an OEM deal that would see IBM distribute Solaris 10 on selected models of the company's System x rack and BladeCenter blade servers. IBM also gave tepid (and somewhat informal) support for the "Sirius" port of Solaris to the System z mainframe line and a nod (but not much actual support) to the "Polaris" port of Solaris to IBM's Power processors.

IBM is permitted to distribute Solaris and to charge for tech support under the agreement, and in February of this year, IBM certified Solaris on its LS41 and HS21 blade servers (two-socket machines that use Opteron and Xeon chips, respectively), on its System x 3755 (a four-socket rack server based on Opterons), the System x 3650 (a two-socket rack server that uses Xeons), the System x 3852 M2, a four-socket machine based on Intel's quad-core "Tigerton" Xeon 7300 processors.

In October, Sine Nomine Associates, which is doing most of the porting work for the mainframe, got the first rev of Sirius out the door and it took IBM more than a month to rejigger its hardware and virtualization software licensing terms so OpenSolaris could be legally loaded onto the mainframe.

Even before IBM became an OEM to Solaris, the company conceded that it needed to support the operating system with some key software, including its General Parallel File System. GPFS matters because IBM killed off its TotalStorage SAN File System back in January 2007. As the name suggests TotalStorage is a file system for SANs that supports many different operating systems, including IBM's AIX, various Linuxes, Solaris, and Windows.

Buried in its TotalStorage announcement, IBM said that it would be adding Solaris and Windows support to GPFS, the replacement product to the TotalStorage SAN File System. GPFS is IBM's shared disk cluster file system, originally created for parallel supercomputers running AIX and extended to Linux clusters in 2001. In August of this year, GPFS got Windows 2003 support, as IBM promised, but this week, IBM announced a "decommitment of intent" to support Solaris accessing GPFS.

That is a problem for customers who were thinking of moving from the SAN File System to GPFS with Solaris servers in their mix. IBM did not explain its reasoning behind the move. This could have something to do with Sun getting its hands on the open source Lustre cluster file system, which the company acquired when it bought the assets of Cluster File Systems, the commercial entity behind the Lustre project. Lustre was supported on Linux machines when Sun acquired it back in September 2007, and Sun said it was going to port Lustre to run on Solaris Unix with its Zettabyte File System propping it up. So far, it still only runs on Linuxes with the 2.6 kernel.

I guess if Sun can't get Solaris supported with Lustre, you can't really blame IBM for not getting GPFS supported with Solaris, either. ®

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