Everyone from techie bloggers to technical journalists to stay-at-home moms are talking about today's big news: IBM is trying to buy Sun Microsystems. Big deal. What's in it for Linux?
As a matter of fact, it is a big deal. And an even bigger deal for Linux.
Sun owns MySQL, Java, Glassfish, VirtualBox and the Solaris Operating System. It also has its own proprietary hardware known as Sparc but is it a good buy for IBM?
On the 'no' side of things, Sun is sinking in the West with no foreseeable chance of rising again in the East. Solaris and Sparc platform sales are suffering and those technologies are on the wane in the datacenter space. Sun gives Solaris away for free these days and has discounted their hardware to a suprising point. Sparc systems used to be the Apple of the datacenter--robust, yes but very expensive--but at least the Sun mice had three buttons instead of just one. The Solaris OS and the Sparc platform are burdens that IBM will have to kill off once the purchase is complete since they offer no real revenue potential.
On the 'yes' side, IBM is buying great opportunity by acquiring Java--a technology that is embedded into its WebSphere line. Purchasing Sun also gains IBM a hopeful replacement for its own languishing DB2 product. VirtualBox is a nice addition to IBM's virtualization efforts. Right now, it's little more than a Desktop-level product but work is underway to create a server version that should prove interesting to those who need a simple solution. Basically IBM is getting MySQL and Java in this purchase and little else that has value. I hope they realize this and go into the negotiations with this in mind.
So, what does this have to do with Linux?
IBM's investment in Linux and open source software is huge and their own flagship AIX runs Linux executables. IBM has also invested heavily in virtualized Linux on its MainFrame platform. Adding Java and MySQL to this mix conjures up big things for the future in my mind. For one, Cloud-based (Cloud=Linux) Java apps with MySQL backends that run on everything from cell phones to MainFrames--oh yeah, there's a big market there.
However this IBM and Sun thing plays out, I hope that it's good for both companies although I have reservations predicting anything positive for Sun.
What do you think of the possible Sun buyout by IBM? Do you think it will be good for IBM? Sun? Linux?
One huge asset that Sun has historically been unable to exploit to its full potential has been <a href="http://www.statowl.com/java.php">Java's market penetration</a>. IBM is undoubtedly considering how to utilize it to have a real RIA solution that can compete with Flash, Silverlight, etc.
You forget Storagetek, which Sun owns. There's a lot of expertise in there that might be useful for IBM in future, especially in the tape drive space. Hate it or hate it, tape is still where it's at for backups.
Here's hoping Sun's crap handling of fibrechannel devices goes out the window :)
I do not think it will make much difference to Linux or any other open source. IBM does have some bad track records in open sourcing its own products too. Open sourcing of the parts of OS/2 that IBM got copyright on comes to mind....