What the IBM-Sun talk means for open source

What the IBM-Sun talk means for open source

Summary: Critics complain IBM has been carrying more of the load on open source for a long time than Sun has. Java developers do not seem upset. My guess is that IBM's own open source advocacy could grow louder with Sun's Silicon Valley presence to justify.

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We've been talking about IBM buying Sun Microsystems here at ZDNet since 2002.

I have been speculating about it since 2004. I put IBM's Thomas Watson Sr. into a Sun post in 2007. (I ran with this sunset last November.)

Now that the talk has gotten serious, with a price of $6.5 billion mentioned (and baked into the market pie) what does it mean? And why now?

As I noted in January Sun is a hardware company, not an open source play. So to me this move looks like IBM believes the worst of the recession is behind us and it's time to build again. Sun's server line is no longer that incompatible with IBM's own hardware.

This is good news for everyone. The economy has been falling like a knife blade and if IBM is now ready to catch it there should be lots of opportunity for the rest of us.

All that said I agree with our Dana Gardner. This deal looks much better for Sun. Cisco's entry into the blade server market is aimed straight at the heart of its data center niche. Scott McNealy's Washington sales pitch may well be falling on deaf ears.

IBM buying Sun would simply be Moore's Second Law in action.

What would this mean for open source? Critics complain IBM has been carrying more of the load on open source for a long time than Sun has. Java developers do not seem upset. My guess is that IBM's own open source advocacy could grow louder with Sun's Silicon Valley presence to justify.

OK, Jonathan Schwartz would probably have to cut the ponytail. But maybe it will raise needed money for charity.

So while this could indeed be a head fake, and while this deal does look better for Sun than IBM, I think the rumor is a positive development. If a deal goes down, I expect the price to be well south of the present price. But a deal is indeed possible, and it would not be a bad thing.

Topics: Hardware, IBM, Open Source, Oracle, Servers

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12 comments
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  • OSS wil become stronger

    It is not only HP and Dell that are impacted, but M$ will fare the worst.
    IBM's commitment to OSS wil make sure FOSS will stay competitive.
    Linux Geek
    • Yawn <NT>

      :)
      GuidingLight
  • RE: What the IBM-Sun talk means for open source

    IBM still is a strong player in the Big Iron world and Sun is not so much. I see the two companies complementing each others server/mainframe/blade hardware. Now as far as Open Source is concerned well IBM has been a strong proponent from the get go - Sun not until they purchased the MySQL company. Now with open source JAVA and IBMs open web products someone will have to see how to make a cohesive free open source offering. What benefit that will bring remains to be seen. Best of all to the Big Boys.
    jazzgood
    • mySQL an interesting point

      I don't know how mySQL would fit in against
      IBM's own DB2. I suspect Sun bought mySQL as
      much to get away from IBM as for any other
      reason.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • Different audience

        While MySQL and DB2 overlap, they cater to different clientele. Even given open source distribution, MySQL is worth it if it can entice folks into using other IBM offerings.
        dave.leigh@...
  • Why?

    Absorption of the another would necessitate their death.
    They are hardware and middleware competitors.

    I welcome the competition:

    IBM: x86/POWER+AIX/Linux+Websphere+DB2
    Sun: x86/SPARC+Solaris/OpenSolaris+Glassfish+MySQL

    Both excellent enterprise alternatives.
    Richard Flude
    • The alternative

      The alternative is that Sun goes under. It's
      continuously losing money. At least if IBM buys
      it you have a migration path, and continuing
      support for the hardware.

      Hardware is the largest part of the company, and
      the part people like you are worried about.
      Rightly so.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • Maybe

        But how is it going to be cheaper to support all platforms within IBM? Your alternative appears to me to be to kill off platforms. I don't see
        myself winning from such a solution.

        The alternative is for Sun to get their act together, continue to reduce
        costs and become profitable.

        Sun has some great technologies. They need to find their niche and
        rightsize to it.
        Richard Flude
        • Coopetition

          One scenario could be that IBM keeps the Sun brand as a separate identity (much as they had done with Lotus). There are some people who will choose Sun over IBM regardless. Why alienate them when you can own both markets?
          dave.leigh@...
  • RE: What the IBM-Sun talk means for open source

    Cool!
    Orvar
  • RE: What the IBM-Sun talk means for open source

    I heard something that IBM is worried about that it
    would take 6-9 months to get this approval from the
    Gov't. So there is some hesitation on Talk.. Anyone
    has any comments on this???

    skywanxxxx
  • RE: What the IBM-Sun talk means for open source

    Bet you're wishing you didn't stab you? in the back NOW, huh?
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