What happens for Linux if IBM does buy Sun?

What happens for Linux if IBM does buy Sun?

Summary: Rumor has it, IBM is looking at buying Sun. No surprise that we're seeing consolidation in a down market, but will this mean consolidation in the open source space?


Rumor has it, IBM is looking at buying Sun. No surprise that we're seeing consolidation in a down market, but will this mean consolidation in the open source space?

I'll let others speculate on the affect it might have on the hardware market, but I'm curious what would happen to the open source operating system ecosystem. Would IBM keep trying to build a separate OpenSolaris community, or put all the weight behind Linux?

The two communities can (and do) exist side-by-side, and Sun's contributions to FOSS projects like GNOME benefit the entire FOSS ecosystem - not just OpenSolaris. Sun doesn't have the same conflict of interest that IBM would, though.

Would IBM continue to support Linux if it had a second open source operating system to look after? In trying economic times, one has to wonder. IBM has been a staunch supporter of Linux, but the company has also dabbled in OpenSolaris, and still maintains AIX. From the corporate viewpoint, it might seem to make more sense to back either Linux or OpenSolaris, rather than maintaining AIX, OpenSolaris, and putting support into Linux as well.

Linux and OpenSolaris are both free *nix operating systems, so why does it matter if IBM goes the OpenSolaris route? It comes down to control: No single vendor controls Linux's destiny. Red Hat, Novell, Canonical and all of the other vendors participating in Linux development have limited control over development, and their customers have plenty of options.

Even the Linux Foundation is merely a steward for some of the community's resources, and doesn't control the direction of the kernel or the larger software ecosystem that make up Linux distros.

Customers have their choice of Linux vendors, contributors have their choice of projects to contribute to. That's not really true of OpenSolaris. For Solaris/OpenSolaris, there's really only one game in town. True, a few OpenSolaris derivatives have popped up, but none have the resources of a major company or large project behind them. Backing OpenSolaris means putting a lot of trust in the company behind it. True, the community or a competitor could fork OpenSolaris, but bootstrapping that sort of thing would take time and a lot of effort.

And for IBM, OpenSolaris would require a lot more manpower in the long run. It seems that it would make more sense for Big Blue to provide a migration path for Solaris customers to Linux.

It's all speculation right now, but if the deal goes through, I hope IBM signals its intentions early on.

Topics: IBM, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Oracle, Software

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  • Plenty of room for Sun & Linux distro's

    I think they need to grow the Sun infrastructure offerings as a replacement for the MS/Intel offerings.

    Diversification in this area is vital to survival, in technology cookie-cutter solutions to not exist and the customer needs to be able to implement solutions to fit their needs and be flexible. Unix/Linux solutions offer the most flexibility and breath of long-term, secure and solid offerings.
  • RE: What happens for Linux if IBM does buy Sun?

    Hi Joe, First off, I'm an IBMer but have NO knowledge of this deal...

    Second, if this deal goes through, I'm not sure that IBM would chose to take paying Solaris/OpenSolaris customers down a path towards Linux. In the former, the paying customer would pay IBM for the operating system. In the latter, the customer would pay a vendor other than IBM, since IBM does not offer a Linux distro. Clearly there are other considerations, such as the revenue from services etc...

    Savio Rodrigues
  • Linux will be fine

    Solaris will be discontinued and some of the code incorporated into Linux.
    Linux Geek
  • there is place both for linux and open solaris

    But what its excellent is now IBM could be back in OS market for for real ... and that good news

    IBM have deep pocket will see what will happen
    • I agree

      If IBM supported both OSs even when they didn't own Solaris, it would stand to reason that they won't abandon it now. It may see less funding than it did under Sun, but I doubt it's going anywhere.
    • IBM/OS

      IBM has an OS. However, it doesn't or no longer has a PC os. It doesn't need one in it's market place. For example, you could install Linux, Solaris and AIX and whatever on IBM's Road Runner. As many as you want all running at the same time. Oh and Windows HPC too I think.
  • RE: What happens for Linux if IBM does buy Sun?

    We can only hope that IBM drops linux like a hot potato and starts full time development on Solaris/opensolaris. Solaris has the better track record and is a real unix, not some hacked up clone that needs to be recompiled every day.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Your wit seems to get thicker every day, Rock...

      I don't know how you've kept it up so long without your brain going completely to Silly-Putty.
      Henrik Moller
      • I don't know what you mean (NT)

        Loverock Davidson
        • QED (nt)

          Henrik Moller
        • Lover(cough)ock could never get Compiz to run

          And has had sour grapes ever since
          Alan Smithie
          • Nothing to see here

            move along
            Loverock Davidson
    • As someone who has ACTUALLY used and administered both ...

      I can say that your comment is worth a good laugh and not a lot more. Both are great OS's, but Linux would require less development overhead and provide more opportunity for the future. IBM=Linux and Sun=Solaris. IBM is buying Sun, not the other way around. Therefore IBM business philosophy is likely to prevail as opposed to Sun business philosophy. IBM currently maintains both AIX and contributes to Linux. I suspect that in reality we will see the more valuable parts of Solaris merged with AIX and the more mundane components finally released to GPL. This would be a logical path forward for IBM at this point. The REALLY BIG acquisition here is not software at all, but useful hardware technology and IP AND, of course, an established customer base.
      George Mitchell
  • Look out MS

    Your old friend IBM is coming to haunt you. BOO !
    Alan Smithie
  • Finally ZFS in Linux! Thank you IBM :)

    I knew I always loved for a reason other than sharing the same letters in my initials.
  • Why, want to get 'too big to fail' bailout money?

    Why don't they leave things alone and go with what they have. Bigger is NOT BETTER anymore.
  • Linux will continue

    A lot of more powerful computers atm are using Linux, not only manpower means time, it means MONEY a LOT money too.
  • Just put it in the dustbin where it belongs...nt

  • RE: What happens for Linux if IBM does buy Sun?

    Nothing. Why should IBM maintain another OS? Unless customers really want something and or ask for something from Solaris?