This is part of Sun's exit strategy from the server business.
(The picture of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Sr. is from the Computer History Museum.)
I mean no criticism in saying this. It has been obvious for years that companies like Sun simply can't compete in the chip market any more.
The reason is Moore's Second Law.
Everyone trumpets Moore's Law, the idea that chip complexity increases exponentially, doubling every 18 months or so. But just as complexity increases exponentially so do development costs.
Sun has recognized this fact through its open source hardware efforts. By sharing design specifications, costs are shared. The life span of designs are expanded as custom versions are developed. It's a true win-win.
This IBM deal is as well. Companies that have run Sun hardware now know they can continue to get competitive gear even as Moore's Second Law continues to bite.
It's a smooth glide path, a real contrast to what others have faced when Moore's Second fell on their hardware suppliers. (I happen to know people who are still running Unisys gear.)
Jonathan Schwartz has done a great favor for his own customers, and may increase software revenues down the road. But all his spin is really lipstick on a pig.
In many ways, Sun is becoming Red Hat.