IBM Sun acquisition: Good for Unix and Linux. Bad for HP

From the ‘wouldn’t that be something‘ files:

IBM is reportedly in talks to acquire Sun for a whopping $6.5 billion. At this early stage, its not known whether this is a fact or just a rumor.

But just for the sake of argument, let’s consider what a powerhouse IBM Sun would be. In my opinion, it would be a boon to both the Unix and Linux markets.

Between the two of them, they control two-thirds of the Unix market with AIX and Solaris. They also control a large portion of the big server market, with IBM’s POWER and Sun’s SPARC architectures. The only company in the Unix space that effectively competes against Sun and IBM is HP, and a result an IBM-Sun combo would be a major challenge.

Then again, it wasn’t that long ago that HP bought Compaq for $25 billion (and remember Compaq had DEC). So in terms of size and scale, IBM acquiring Sun is a smaller deal and may perhaps even finally be IBM’s attempt at catching up, as it were. Bringing AIX and Solaris under one roof will help to consolidate Unix’s position instead of fraying it with competition.

For Linux, Sun isn’t unfriendly — working with Ubuntu/Canonical and others lately, but Solaris is their main operating system push, the way I see it. With Sun as part of IBM, and IBM a major reseller of Linux, the equation changes. Sun would fall into the IBM fold of pro-Linux in a manner similar to how HP today supports Linux.

Yes, there would be overlap — just as there was for HP and Compaq — but together, the combined IBM/Sun will challenge HP on significantly larger level.

Expanding the competitive landscape a little, with Cisco getting into the server market and a tighter relationship with Red Hat, the overall IT landscape is changing. IBM and Sun both have to do something in response to Cisco’s blade server, and a new combined entity might just be the ticket.

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