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IBM faces mainframe biz European antitrust probe

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IBM faces yet another antitrust headache today, after French mainframe open source outfit TurboHercules filed a complaint with European competition watchdogs.

TurboHercules has accused Big Blue of denying customers the right to run IBM's mainframe operating system on anything other than IBM iron.

The Paris-based company filed its complaint with the European Commission's competition directorate general in Brussels this morning.

TurboHercules alleged that its open source, community-developed mainframe emulator was shunned by IBM.

"IBM is preventing customers from using Hercules by tying IBM's mainframe operating system with IBM hardware. This conduct prevents TurboHercules from providing its product to mainframe customers desiring an open-source solution," said TurboHercules chairman and co-creator Roger Bowler.

The company said it had filed the antitrust complaint because "IBM's efforts to protect its mainframe monopolies extended to open-source solutions", it claimed.

"TurboHercules is by no means anti-IBM," said Bowler. "We originally wrote to IBM requesting that it license its mainframe operating system to customers, on reasonable and fair terms, for use with Hercules in certain circumstances.

He claimed that IBM refused TurboHercules' request and instead claimed that the firm's emulator violated IBM intellectual property.

"We then realised that our only hope as a small company was to file a complaint with the European Commission," said Bowler.

TurboHercules asked EC antitrust watchdogs today to order Big Blue to end the alleged tying of its mainframe technologies and make its interfaces and protocols available to its competitors.

"We have not been notified of this complaint and are thus unable to comment," an IBM spokesman told The Register.

In October last year, the US Department of Justice began an investigation of IBM's mainframe market tactics, after the company was accused of using its dominant market position to unfairly squeeze out any upstart competition. The investigation was initiated at the prompting of Washington DC-based lobby group, the Computer & Communication Industry Association.

Anti-competition complaints against IBM include withdrawing z/OS licences from customers who use non-IBM hardware, punishing "disloyal" partners, and purchasing PSI, the mainframe startup that was leading international antitrust charges against IBM. ®

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