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 series of actions the DOJ took against IBM dating back to the 1970s and earlier. 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.

The DOJ abandoned a long-standing antitrust consent decree with IBM in 2001.

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 believes there is no merit to antitrust claims brought by competitor T3 Technologies, said Tim Breuer, director of external relations for the IBM Systems and Technology Group. The DOJ has apparently asked T3 for documents related to its lawsuit, Breuer said. IBM intends to cooperate with any inquires from the DOJ, he added.

Last week, a U.S. district court in New York dismissed a lawsuit brought by mainframe vendor T3, Breuer noted.

T3, partly owned by Microsoft, had accused IBM of yanking its IBM reseller agreement when T3 refused to stop selling technology that allowed customers to end older versions of IBM's mainframe operating systems on Intel-based servers. The T3 dispute with IBM is part of CCIA's complaint filed with the DOJ, as well as part of an antitrust investigation against IBM launched by the European Union in mid-2008.

"We continue to believe there is no merit to T3's claims, and that IBM is fully entitled to enforce our intellectual property rights and protect the investments that we have made in our technologies," Breuer said.

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.

IBM also refused to license its mainframe OSes to users of the Hercules open source mainframe project trying to run mainframe software on non-IBM hardware, CCIA said.

But the complaint goes "way beyond" the Platform Solutions, T3 and Hercules cases, 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 mainframeIBMcciadoj

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

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

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

Learn more >

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

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

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

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

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.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?