Sun Microsystems is all over the news today. They have not been in the news much as there have not been many interesting developments from them for a while. Java is in the hands of the JCP, and their hardware business gets chipped away by low cost Windows server farms and the new cloud services.
Finally, Sun decided not to go down without a fight. GigaOm has a very good article regarding Sun’s cloud services, which will be launched during the summer. By creating cloud services, Sun has shown that they are not dead yet. Given that they know the hardware, and their services have always been reliable it could be a very interesting offering. This also makes them a very good acquisition target.
Shockingly enough, IBM supposedly has interest again in buying Sun. This would be a very good move for IBM as it gets them some server hardware business again, as well as jumping right into the cloud services arena. This does not sound like much, but IBM is a services company. IBM would open up two new areas of expertise immediately, Sun hardware services and cloud services based on the Sun offering. If you wanted someone to legitimize cloud services to the enterprise, IBM services would be the ones to do it.
From the software development perspective, the purchase would also be a very logical fit. IBM has been a big proponent of Java for years, and they would get some of the Sun talent by default. Some of Sun’s tools may be discontinued, but people have said that NetBeans is much better than it used to be. So some of the tools folks could probably move into similar positions, the difference being they would be working on Eclipse. The one thing that does not seem to fit at first is MySql. However, I think it is a good stepping stone for IBM. Again, there is the services group that can now formally offer MySql services. Also, DB2 is not something a lot of smaller companies ever want to play with. By purchasing MySql, IBM can use that as a baby step towards their enterprise offering. Granted, MySql can hold its own in several circumstances, but IBM would definitely use it as a “starter” DB2.
Hopefully, this deal will eventually happen as it gives the Sun technologies a chance to thrive with the backing of IBM. Sun’s influence has been steadily dwindling, but this purchase could make them rise again, just under a different name.
[UPDATE] Tim Bray has an excellent post regarding some more details of the Sun cloud services offering. Tim mentions that he has been on the cloud services team from the beginning of the year, so this is an insider’s point of view.
2 thoughts on “Is Sun Finally Getting Bought By IBM?”
This is M and A mania ala RJR Nabisco and AOL/ Times Warner. This is going to destroy Sun’s legacy and cost IBM big time.
The only reason IBM would buy Sun is to acquire rights to Sun’s patents and then wield them despotically in a way Sun never did. The long story there is this will accelerate the movement to simply ban software patents the way business method patents were all but disposed of by the Supreme Court recently.
What does Sun have that IBM wants? This is not about a smaller company being bought for their technology. It’s about a larger company buying a weakened rival in order to kill off it’s competitor. This is HP and Compaq / Carly Fiorina II.
Sun could continue as it is. It has the cash. It has the vision. The future of computing / cloud based applications, PaaS SaaS is on its side. If anything, they’ve been too far ahead of their times.
If IBM buys Sun you can bet that developers will desert Java en mass since IBM has their “own” VM just they way they have their “own” GUI toolkit for Java. In the software arena, IBM has the worst case of NIH ever seen. Their developers are convinced they can do everything “better”, with marginal results and more importantly, the creation of discontinuities in technology development and adoption. IBM broke the Java the GUI community into two camps to no good effect when it introduced SWT. So also with Eclipse, which is a poor imitation of IntelliJ and NB.
The cultural differences between IBM and Sun’s developers are where the rubber will meet the road on this M and A. Developers aren’t so many thinking cogs that you can shuffle around from company to company, like other “assets”. They’re people with a POV and an attitude about what they do. That is, to the extent they’re any good at what they do. To the victor, IBM< will not go the spoils.
Here’s a dose of reality to all my friends on Wall Street and in management at both companies. Beneath the level of anything any analyst can see or quantify, there’s little tiny social and psychological micro-events that determine how the knowledge that’s in the heads and practices of Sun’s employees – which is what gives Sun its real value – gets “transferred” (or not) to IBM. So you bought the company. So what. trust me, you didn’t buy the developers. Quite the opposite. IF you think you can walk into any part of Sun’s IP, excepting the patents, and take ownership of it, you and Wall Street have a big surprise coming. It’s not under your control, and it never was and it never will be. The culture clash between the Sun way of doing things, egalitarian, optimistic, inventive, forward looking and social is going to slam head on into IBM’s well documented culture of manipulation, mean spirited employee relations, exploitative relationships with its customers (billable hours), aggressive and opportunistic use of the broken IP system (Phelps), divisive, conceited and rank-abusing management hierarchy, forced rankings among employees where the bottom 10% are automatically fired, etc. etc.
Prediction- the best of Sun’s employee’s flee to Google and Adobe, the rest foot drag and passively resist their new-found hell, IBM destroys zfs, Netbeans and other middleware products, Swing and finally Java itself through a combination ineptitude , alienation of key developers, grandiosity and conceit and when it’s all over a huge amount of really good stuff simply no longer exists, the market is poorer and the forward momentum of software development is set back by 15 years.
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