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IBM's antitrust cage gets rattled

Oh the irony
Thu Jun 25 2009, 10:44

THE ANTITRUST KNIVES are out again, and this time IBM may be about to feel the cold stab of both European and American regulation as The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA ) and a firm called T3 Technologies take the computing giant to task, and potentially to court.

The CCIA - whose members include the likes of Microsoft, Google, Oracle and AMD - has been on IBM's back for years now, arguing that Big Blue is indeed just a big bully which monopolises markets with its unfair behaviour and business practices. Did we mention who the CCIA members included, *cough*?

Piping up to add its voice to the "J'accuse", CCIA member T3 has separately filed a lawsuit in the federal court of New York on claims that IBM has total dominance over the mainframe market.

Now, for those who think mainframes sound a bit 90's, you would be sort of right, except for two things: the legacy transaction-based applications which still comprise about 80 per cent of corporate IT workloads, and the recent virtualisation and nebulous "cloud computing" hype.

Mainframes, it would seem, never really went away and are back on the forefront of strategic IT thinking. By offering hardware, software and services, IBM has long regarded the mainframe market as its cash cow, and rightfully so because it has dominated that segment literally forever.

But T3, which also develops mainframe technology compatible with IBM software for the SMB market, says IBM plays dirty by signing up enterprises that would have a very high cost of switching to other systems. The firm apparently also refuses to share blueprints necessary to offer a cheaper alternative.

"What they've done just isn't right," said T3's President, Steven Friedman, adding "if you want to buy a mainframe today, you have one choice in Europe and one in the US."

Microsoft, which has managed to dodge antitrust bullets matrix style for years, also chimed into the discussion, with a spokesvoles calling for "greater openness and choice" in the mainframe market. Excuse us while we choke.

Not that IBM made the situation any better by declaring it hadn't done anything wrong because "The IBM mainframe has been around for decades," and besides, "there have always been competitive options and alternatives to it." Just not particularly viable ones, eh? µ



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