The cloud battles are beginning to get a little nastier, if that was even possible. First there were price wars where each company tried outdo the other with even cheaper offerings. This week it reached the personal level when IBM sued a former executive to prevent him from joining the rival, AWS.

IBM maintains that former CIO Jeff Smith has insight into Big Blue’s big plans for its cloud computing business, which Smith could use against them when he joins AWS. IBM might have a point. It is already playing catch-up without someone handing AWS their game plan for the next year. Smith has been with the cloud computing part of the company since 2014 and he’s likely had a key role in building its cloud strategy.

Of course, it’s not like AWS needs any help here. Smith is like the athlete trying to move from the team with little chance to make the playoffs as the one in first place. As we’ve written here many times, AWS is the undisputed cloud leader, so perhaps IBM is trying a bit of a gamesmanship here to reduce the sting of losing one of their star players to a rival.

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IBM claims he signed a non-compete agreement, that would prevent him from joining any competing cloud company, and if that’s the case he could be in violation.

Telling tales out of school?

If that’s where it ended it probably wouldn’t be a huge deal. The courts could settle whether the agreement is binding or not, but SiliconAngle is reporting that IBM is claiming that Smith talked to AWS CEO Andy Jassy prior to giving notice at IBM and revealed some of those plans he knew about.

The first hearing is set for later this month. In the meantime, IBM and AWS are trying to sort out whether Smith can join the company beforehand. One ruling said he couldn’t, but AWS was able to get the court to allow him to start his training period while the courts deal with the details.

At some point, it will be up to the courts to settle the question, but it just goes to show that level of enmity that is building up between the cloud companies. You may recall a similar level of discord between Salesforce and Microsoft some years ago.

Microsoft sued Salesforce in 2010. They countersued and on and on it went until customers told them enough was enough. They wanted them concentrating on their needs, not wasting time in court.

I suspect at some point everyone will back off in a similar fashion for a similar set of reasons, but for the time being it’s in the hands of the lawyers — and that’s never good.

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Photo: Christopher Paquette on Flickr. Used under CC by 2.0 license

Posted by Ron Miller

Ron Miller is a freelance technology reporter and blogger. He is contributing editor at EContent Magazine and enterprise reporter at TechCrunch.

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