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WSJ says: "IBM in Talks to Buy Sun". But Why would IBM buy Sun Microsystems?

Posted by kalali on March 18, 2009 at 6:51 AM PDT

The Wall Street Journal Published an article which discuss possibility of IBM buying Sun Microsystems, but why on earth should IBM take over Sun Microsystems when every product which Sun offer has a counterpart in IBM arsenal.

In software range Sun offers Operating System, Database, Application server family of products, identity management family of product, Integration series of products either developed by Sun or acquired from other companies, Software development tools including NetBeans and its related add-ons. All of these products has a counterpart in IBM series of products.

In hardware range Sun offers Storages, X86 and Sparc servers, and networking solutions. All of these products have their counterpart in IBM arsenal and having them add no exceptional value to IBM set of available products which make IBM take over Sun Microsystems.

But Why would IBM think about buying Sun Microsystems and what Sun own that IBM does not?

  • First Sun owns Java and all rights over its patents and source codes
  • Sun owns some products which I am not aware of any counterpart in IBM offering, these products includes: VirtualBox and X86 virtualization, and Sun xVM Ops for data centre management
  • It is told that IBM has the largest patents arsenal but Sun owns enough patents which IBM might be interested to own them
  • Although IBM has AIX and there are some undergo efforts to port Solaris to Z architecture but maybe IBM has some more plans with Solaris

A list of Sun software with their counterpart in IBM arsenal:

Sun Product IBM counterpart
Sun JDK* IBM JDK, although I think IBM licensed Some part of Sun JDK to avoid developing them again (class path?)
NetBeans and Sun Studio series of products (For Java, C++ and so on)* Eclipse and Rational line of products(For Java, C++ and so on)
Sun middle-ware product line including but not limited to: GlassFish, Portal, Sun Identity management, JCAPS and OpenESB, and so on.* IBM Websphere product line including but not limited to: Application server, Portal, Tivoli Identity management, ESB, and so on.
Sun Solaris* IBM AIX, Z/OS, Z/VM and whatever Z starting word that you can write here
MySQL as a product which Sun owns, Java DB and PostGreSQL support* DB2, DB2 express edition, DB2 community edition, Informix dynamic server(is it still alive?)
JavaFX Nothing that I am aware of
X86 virtualization* Nothing that I am aware of
Data Centre management(Sun xVM Ops center) Nothing that I am aware of

*All of these products except JCAPS and Sun xVM Ops are open source. And all of them are high quality with a well established community of user and third party companies which are involved in their development.

Now, Why could be possible reason that we hear "IBM in Talks to Buy Sun"? The reason can be:

  • Patents and rights that Sun is holding over Java, Sparc and Solaris
  • The Open Source model which Sun introduced and looks to be successful
  • Open Source products that Sun is developing and have gained enough attraction from the community which result in "IBM in Talks to Buy Sun" once more.
  • Brilliant architects, engineers, and evangelists which are working for Sun Microsytems
  • Some software and functionalities which IBM does not own
  • Customers and community to gain more market share, specially in middle range market
  • Maybe IBM is interested in un-released Sun Cloud Computing... Sun is known to either does not enter an area or if entered provides a very good product or service in that area, technically speaking.

What can happen if IBM take over Sun Microsytems? The answer is: no one knows expect those IBM super managers which are possibly thinking about this take over. But some predictions:

  • Java will evolve much faster as IBM has more man power to assign to it
  • OpenSolaris will get more attention and possibly replace AIX in long term
  • MySQL and Sun middle-ware products will form a big bundle of highly integrated, high quality Open Source products and bring more revenue to IBM
  • IBM will lay off some Sun employees, specially in sales and marketing section because they have many sales and marketing employees
  • NetBeans and Eclipse? I can not comment with more than 20 percent of certainty, but I think either IBM kill all middle-ware or work on NetBeans development for as long as they provide all NetBeans functionalities that support Sun middle-ware development in Eclipse
  • JavaFX will see a boost in development as IBM can afford more man power
  • Swing and SWT story? I think IBM will keep Swing as a part of JRE but hey will push SWT as a part of the JRE to ensure it will get enough chance of growing in the market
  • Responsibilities for providing support for Java, JCP, TCK and... will be given to a foundation organized by IBM, Oracle, RedHat, ...

I may have missed some items due to short term forgetfulness or being completely unaware of their presence. If you happen to know them, let me know and I will include it in this blog.

 


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Comments

@jwenting Just curious, have you actually *tried* Netbeans? It comes with far more functionality out of the box, and many developers swear that it's better than Eclipse. @kalali Glassfish will be fine, since it has a large community independent of Sun, as well as MySQL. I'm not so sure about OpenSolaris and Netbeans, but closed source Solaris should survive since it has far too many customers for IBM to kill.

Redhat as a business entity is pushing project IcedTea which supposed to be the fully open source JDK provided by Redhat. They are already bundling it with the operating system and if IBM go toward killing Sun JDK they will certainly accelerate the development or they may license Oracle JVM.... The main concern about this takeover is Sun sponsored open source projects including OpenSolaris, MySQL, GlassFish and so on. These are a set of great products which IBM may try to turn them into zombie, orphan projects and let them die slowly. Although it is very unlikely but every coin has two sides :-)

Removing Sun from the Java market would leave IBM in a position to effectively remove the Java market as far as its competitors are concerned. While undercutting WebLogic (BEA/Oracle have their own JVM) might not work, JBoss is a far bigger headache for WebSphere sales and can't survive without the Sun JDK. The Sun JDK would not survive IBM ownership, and neither would OpenJDK survive without the funding Sun now provides.
So IBM might well be planning to turn Java into a WebSphere-only language, hoping to gain marketshare in the application server market in both the hardware and software segments by removing both Sun and those competitors that depend on Sun funding directly or indirectly for their continued existence.
Killing off Netbeans would remove some lice in the Eclipse pelt, but it's no match for Eclipse anyway and has little market share as is.

I certainly understand why IBM is interested in Sun. Acquisition would provide IBM with a greater market-share of HW sales and allow them to better compete with HP. Also, the SW patents and intellectual property owned by Sun must be very attractive to IBM. However, IBM has tendency to ruin good software. I remember using Lotus software before the IBM acquisition, and it was very good software at the time. Now it is all junk, and apps like Lotus Notes and WebSphere WDSC are both terrible pieces of software.