IBM faces DOJ antitrust inquiry on mainframes

IBM is keeping customers and vendors from exploring alternatives, a trade group says

IBM is facing an antitrust inquiry from the U.S. Department of Justice for recent actions the company has taken in the mainframe computer market, according to the trade group that filed the complaint.

The DOJ has begun issuing formal requests for information related to a complaint filed against IBM in September, according to the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), the trade group that filed the complaint.

CCIA's complaint against IBM alleges that the company has refused to issue licenses for IBM's mainframe OS to competitors, as required in a 1970s antitrust consent decree with the DOJ that was terminated in 2001. In some cases, IBM has yanked the OS license from customers trying to switch from IBM mainframe hardware to a competitor's, said Ed Black, CCIA's president.

Several large and small companies would like to compete with IBM in the mainframe market, particularly in software and services for mainframes, but IBM's actions have allowed it to maintain a monopoly, Black said.

"It's a really big case," added Heather Greenfield, a CCIA spokeswoman. "There are tons of companies cheering that aren't willing to be quite so public because they have to deal with IBM in other ways."

The DOJ will not comment on the complaint, a DOJ spokeswoman said.

IBM didn't have an immediate comment on the DOJ investigation.

Part of CCIA's complaint stems from the tech giant's treatment of former competitor Platform Solutions. IBM had little competition in the mainframe market when Platform Solution, early this decade, began work on servers that could mimic the behavior of more expensive IBM mainframes, CCIA said.

Platform Solutions, based on past mainframe agreements between IBM and the DOJ, requested copies of IBM's OS and technical information under a licensing agreement. IBM declined to grant Platform Solutions a license and prohibited customers from transferring IBM software licenses to Platform Solutions machines, said CCIA, which has members that are potential competitors of IBM.

In 2006, IBM sued Platform Solutions over licenses the smaller company had purchased from Amdahl, a division of former mainframe competitor Fujitsu. IBM's lawsuit alleged that the licenses infringed its intellectual property. Platform Solutions filed a countersuit. In 2008, IBM purchased Platform Solutions, putting an end to the legal wrangling.

But the complaint goes "way beyond" the Platform Solutions case, Black said. Many mainframe customers would like to find cheaper alternatives, but IBM has prevented them from doing so, he said.

"There's a number of things they have done to numerous companies," he said. "In a time of economic troubles, government deficits and corporate problems, there's a lot of customers that [would find] a choice and lower costs really desirable."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mainframeantitrustserversIBM

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?