IBM accused of stifling mainframe innovation

The creator of a system that allows mainframe applications to run on cheap IBM processors has accused the computing giant of spreading false information to discourage users from adopting that system.

NEON Enterprise Software’s zPrime software allows customers to use IBM’s so-called ‘specialty processors’ (SPs) to run mainframe applications and therefore to avoid the usage fees associated with its standard processors. The company alleges in a lawsuit that IBM has “falsely” claimed that by using zPrime, customers would be violating their license contracts.

“IBM’s contracts include no provision that would entitle IBM to charge for processing done on SPs, and [it] has long promised its customers that processing done on SPs will never bear software licensing fees,” the lawsuit reads.

NEON also says that IBM in now selling specialty processors on the condition that customers do not use zPrime, “thereby foreclosing a substantial amount of competition in the market”.

IBM denies the allegations.

Speaking to Information Age in November 2009, NEON chief executive Lacy Edwards said that the company checked with a law firm and an expert witness that zPrime did not violate IBM’s intellectual property or its contracts with customers before releasing the product commercially.

Edwards also argued that while zPrime threatens the revenue IBM earns from processor license fees, it may also promote mainframe adoption by making it cheaper.

IBM’s domination of the mainframe industry is currently under the scrutiny US Department of Justice, after hardware manufacturer T3 accused the company of preventing its mainframe operating systems from running on T3 devices.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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