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By | Ashlee Vance 30th March 2006 00:56

IBM offers Sun-only price break on middleware

Have UltraSPARC T1, will discount

IBM's software team has cut Sun Microsystems server customers a price break of sorts. Those of you installing IBM middleware on Sun's new UltraSPARC T1-based servers will use a modified per-processor pricing model that attempts to deal with the unique nature of Sun's latest chip.

IBM largely relies on a pricing model where one software license is required per processor core. This rule applies for IBM's own Power, Sun's UltraSPARC IV and HP's PA-RISC chips - all of which have two cores per chip.

Sun's four-, six- and eight-core versions of the UltraSPARC T1 have cracked IBM's per core policy.

Stick with us here because this gets a bit complex.

You'll need two licenses for IBM middleware running on a four-core or six-core UltraSPARC T1s and three licenses for an eight-core chip. That compares, for example, to paying for eight software licenses on the eight-core chip under IBM's old model.

Is this a real price break? We're not sure and doubt you are either.

It all, of course, depends on the particular application.

Sun has billed the UltraSPARC T1 as a gem for web server and application server loads, and IBM has plenty of middleware in that category. It seems that Sun customers will really benefit if the UltraSPARC T1 performs as well as advertised. If, however, an eight-core UltraSPARC T1 doesn't out perform three cores of Power, PA-RISC, Itanium or UltraSPARC, then you might be losing out because of more expensive licenses.

IBM, incidentally, does give x86 chip makers Intel and AMD a break as well. Only one software license is needed for a dual-core Xeon or Opteron.

IBM has been the most reticent major software maker to face the reality of multi-core chips, despite being the first major processor maker to produce a mutli-core chip. This position makes sense given IBM's large DB2 and WebSphere franchises.

BEA, for example, stopped charging a 25 per cent premium for dual-core chips. Microsoft too has agreed to count multi-core processors as a single chip in per chip licensing schemes.

Oracle seems to be doing better than IBM, although you need to purchase a supercomputer just to figure out different licensing scenarios. ®

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