The announcement that IBM will now support Solaris on IBM hardware is by now old news. However, it brings several relevant themes, and their impact on the IT marketplace, into perspective. Jonathan Schwartz mentioned how this move is testimony to the recognition of the importance of choice by both IBM and Sun. While I can't vouch for the intentions of either company, I can express the importance of recognizing and embracing the collective reality that choice is shaping industry trends and direction. Open source software -- by affording greater choice among other things -- has emerged as an undeniable force. Exactly the same can be said for open standards. Previously, lock-in was held as a critical strategic objective. From a vendor perspective, when customers had their near-term future dependent on your protocols/standards/formats, it was cause for celebration. Today things are changing. Vendor lock-in has yet to go the way of dinosaurs, but the fact that it isn't casually accepted as a minor inconvenience/side effect says volumes in and of itself.
When it comes to accommodating choice, openness is an important element of any approach. It is impossible to claim support of true choice without exhibiting openness. Competitors must be acknowledged not only as sources of tension but also as collaborative resources, where interaction isn't limited by a move-counter move outlook but one which accepts the possibility of collective growth. Does that sound a bit communistic? Perhaps, but I think the exponential explosion in complexity has brought the realization that solutions tend to be composite in nature to the surface. Heterogeneity is a fact of life, both as a reflection of the current rate of change and a product of disparate demand. More than anything, competition and collaboration are moving away from being cast as mutually exclusive, and instead as features of a balanced overture to business. Increasingly, you can't ably compete without collaborating.
Possible outcomes of this relationship between two vendors who have shown a willingness to nurture open gardens are tantalizing to consider. Particularly, what are the valuable points of intersection for Solaris, as an open source operating system, within the IBM OEM delivery channel? Ironically, Novell is charged with figuring out the same for IBM's Websphere Application Server community edition (WAS CE). Yet questions, about whether the open source model ceases to matter at the point delivery by an OEM, have their answers stand as critical strategic considerations for the parties involved.
At the end of the day the proven benefits of choice, openness and collaboration only matter as well as they are translated along the lines of having a positive business impact. In this case, I've got my eye on how the bottom-up, developer driven momentum captured by Solaris will be translated into IBM's plans, if at all. Accordingly, will an IBM endorsement invigorate an open source Solaris in the same way that it provided a stamp of approval for Linux? There are quite a few angles in gaining a coherent understanding of this move, so I'd love to hear what those more knowledgeable have to say.