IBM Buys Sun; No One Cares


I have held off commenting on the rumored IBM acquisition of Sun for the formal offer, and a chance to read all the juicy SEC material that explains when who talked to whom about what before the deal was signed. That information will explain why. People don't lie in that stuff anymore (something about going to jail or having your bonus taxed in a confiscatory way).


But I can't wait any longer because - based on the relative lack of chatter on the blogosphere - no one out there really cares. By the time the deal is done, the guy most impacted on the whole planet is going to be Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation. Jim is supposed to moderate the debate I mentioned on March 10 among IBM, Sun and Microsofton the future of operating software early in April. The debating points just got a lot narrower.


Rob Enderle did a good post on the subject herewith the IBM insider's angle. I come at it from a different perspective, having had IBM as research client in various forms between 1991 and 2006 (and competing against them for 20 years before that). Rob sees IBM as a software company with a services side, no longer the systems supplier we all (speaking for myself) grew old with. I agree IBM is no longer a systems company but think IBM actually crossed over to the services side when it divested the PC division and acquired PwC. That is, to me IBM is a services company with a software side.


In my opinion, there is no doubt that at IBM services is the dog (no aspersion intended) and software is the tail. And the dog controls the wagging. All of IBM's strategic moves for more than 10 years have been toward services provision (even beginning to concentrate on business services provision as opposed to IT services provision). The middleware acquisitions such as Crossworlds and Holologx beginning in the late 1990s, the funding of Linux and Apache beginning in the mid 1990s, the sale of Mapics before that, and so forth were all about more cost-effectively executing IT services contracts, running all of IBM's growing list of outsourcing sites, and building a cloud that won't quit.


And all about getting out of the software business in and of itself.


(A side thought: I read somewhere that controlling Java is the underlying reason, but $7 billion seems to be a lot to pay for controlling code that is open sourced already? Maybe IBM does not trust the open source community to toe its corporate line.)


Anyway, maybe Rob and I could have a good debate over that software/services vs. services/software subtlety but again, it looks like no one cares. The reason is probably buried in the IDC Unix to Linux migration statistics I noted here. If you're a Sun user with an opinion on this, especially if you know where you're going next, please add a comment.