IBM Red Hat Sun OracleYou already know IBM is pursuing Sun Microsystems' customer base. But here's a twist: Red Hat and its channel partners seem to be helping IBM pursue Sun's customers. It's all part of a fierce, sometimes emotional battle between Red Hat and the Oracle-Sun camp. Here's the scoop, from The VAR Guy.

First, the obvious: When Oracle moved to acquire Sun, rival hardware vendors like IBM worked overtime to win over Sun's customers. IBM claims more than 800 customers switched from Sun/Oracle and HP to IBM in 2009, according to the Times Herald Record. Sounds impressive.

But let's keep the stats in proper perspective... Sun's hardware business has been hurting for years, but the company does have tens of thousands of customers. And Oracle has certainly been proactive about communicating with those Sun customers.

Now, for the latest chatter: Red Hat and IBM are jointly prompting initiatives to move Sun Sparc/Solaris customers to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The Red Hat-IBM initiative promotes Linux on everything from IBM's PC servers up to Big Blue's mainframes. It's an interesting hedge by IBM, which also continues to promote AIX Unix.

Channel Partners Profiting?

When a Sun customer expresses interest in an IBM-Red Hat solution, Red Hat appears to be directing some of the business leads to channel partners. Check this Red Hat sales inquiry form, and you'll notice a drop-down box with the following statement:
"I understand Red Hat often uses authorized business partners to best serve its customers. Red Hat may share my contact information with those partners."
No doubt, Red Hat's partners have completed thousands of Unix-to-Linux migrations in recent years. But there's a flip-side to this story. And it involves Oracle's own Linux strategy -- which Red Hat loathes.

Unbreakable Linux Revisited

Much to Red Hat's dismay, Oracle continues to promote an Unbreakable Linux strategy. Some folks think Unbreakable Linux is a "knock-off" of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Oracle about a year ago clarified the Unbreakable Linux strategy with this blog statement:
"Oracle Unbreakable Linux program is about enterprise-class support that customers can't get (or is not available) from Red Hat. It has never been about creating a knock-off or forked Linux distribution. There is no migration, or switch, needed for existing RHEL users to move to Oracle Unbreakable Linux support."
Generally speaking, The VAR Guy doesn't think many Red Hat customers have shifted to Oracle's support program. Still, Oracle's Linux support efforts seem to be getting under Red Hat's skin. On February 3, 2010, Red Hat hosted a webcast titled "Understanding the Risks of Free and ‘Low Cost’ Linux" -- the event essentially was designed to dispel Linux-oriented support moves from Oracle and Novell, respectively.

The Bottom Line

So where does that leave us? No doubt, IBM and Red Hat continue to pursue Sun's customer base. But Oracle continues to return the favor by promoting Unbreakable Linux support to Red Hat's customer base.