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Microsoft quietly invests in IBM emulator TurboHercules

The freshly Microsoft-funded TurboHercules offers an emulator to run IBM mainframe OSes on x86 servers

By Joab Jackson, IDG News Service
December 01, 2010 04:31 PM ET

IDG News Service - Continuing its low-key crusade for greater mainframe openness (or less IBM dominance of that market), Microsoft has invested an undisclosed amount of money in mainframe emulator provider TurboHercules, said the Paris company.

Neither company would disclose the amount or terms of the investment.

Microsoft's investment is one of a number that Microsoft has made in companies and organizations that are challenging IBM's mainframe stronghold, either by competitive or legal means.

In March, TurboHercules filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission alleging that IBM ties its OS with its hardware, shutting out other vendors in the market.

Another company that has received Microsoft funding, T3, has also filed an antitrust complaint against IBM in Europe. And Microsoft is a member of the Computer and Communications Industry Association trade group, which helped spark a U.S. Department of Justice antitrust probe into IBM's mainframe market dominance last year.

TurboHercules manages code for an open source emulator, called Hercules, that allows the IBM mainframe OSes to run on commodity x86 servers. Hercules runs on both Microsoft Windows and Linux.

Hercules could be used, in theory, to run a mainframe OS and associated software entirely on x86 servers, though TurboHercules is currently marketing it for "auxiliary and ancillary operations like archiving, disaster recovery, testing and development," TurboHercules CEO Bill Miller said in an interview with IDG News Service.

Hercules "would supplement the mainframe and not replace it," Miller said.

TurboHercules plans to use the Microsoft investment to increase its sales efforts and to develop Hercules-based software that could aid in disaster recovery operations.

Miller said that he expects that this investment in TurboHercules will be the first of several by outside companies.

Miller declined to comment on the complaint his company made to the Commission. IBM declined to comment about the investment.

Microsoft also declined to comment on the investment beyond offering a written statement: "Microsoft shares TurboHercules' belief that there needs to be greater openness and choice for customers in the mainframe market. Customers tell us that they want greater interoperability between the mainframe and other platforms, including systems that run Windows Server. For that reason, we continue to invest in companies like TurboHercules to develop new solutions for our mutual customers."

Microsoft issued an identical statement, down to the exact wording, to describe its investment in T3, while denying involvement in T3's legal complaint against IBM.

(IDG News Service editor Peter Sayer contributed to this article).

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