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IBM in Talks to Buy Sun?

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According to the Wall Street Journal, IBM is in talks to buy out Sun. It could be a worthwhile move for IBM, giving them a more complete portfolio. But would it be the right thing for Sun to do? It certainly would have an impact on Sun's battered share price: 

It is unclear whether the negotiations will result in a transaction, but if the deal does go through, IBM is likely to pay at least $6.5 billion in cash to acquire Sun, the people said. That would translate into a premium of about 100% over Sun's closing price Tuesday of $4.97 a share on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Right now, this story probably means more for IBM's place in the server market, and how Sun could help that. When I think about how this could impact Java, I can only see positives. A company such as IBM, could inject more money into Java development. When I think about the company who gave us Eclipse having more of an investment in Java, it's difficult to see any negatives.

What impact do you think IBM taking over Sun would have on Java?

Reference: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123735124997967063.html


Wai Ho replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 5:14am

It would mean the end of Netbeans. Everyone would be forced into the hit-and-miss plugin treasure hunt that is called Eclipse. *Sigh.*

Piero Sartini replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 5:20am

There are too much products that overlap. NetBeans Platform or Eclipse will loose company backing. NetBeans IDE or WSAD, SWT or Swing, Glassfish or Websphere, AIX or Solaris, etc, etc... imho it's not too difficult to see negatives.

Navneet Karnani replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 5:21am

IBM would kill Netbeans and that would mean no competition on the IDE space. I would be sad if that happened.

James Sugrue replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 5:26am

It would take quite an effort to kill Netbeans though? It still has it's place in the IDE space, JavaFX development being one example.

Andrew McVeigh replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 5:29am

I think it would probably be good for Java, as IBM has very deep pockets.  Perhaps the ideal scenario is they'd spin off the JavaSE stuff into a non-profit foundation like they've done with Eclipse.

Wai Ho replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 5:29am in response to: James Sugrue

Don't you think that's all the more reason for IBM to kill it? What would be the point of having two IDEs by the same company? Specially in these economic times. Day two after IBM takes over Sun it announces that "because of budget needs" they will drop Netbeans, as well as every other product for which IBM has an alternative (i.e., with which IBM has been competing).

Julian Exenberger replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 5:53am

Does anyone remember companies like Dynix or Informix which were bought by IBM? Basically this is end of life for everything distinctly Sun. This means: bye-bye:

- Solaris/Open Solaris

- Sparc


- Netbeans

- Glassfish

- Open storage

- Commercial MySQL (uggh, now they'll start punting DB2 as the commercial option)

- JavaFX





Andrew McVeigh replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 6:03am in response to: Julian Exenberger

Basically this is end of life for everything distinctly Sun

Yes, history shows it will probably be very bad for SUN products as a whole. 

Wai Ho replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 6:13am in response to: Andrew McVeigh

To anyone who likes Sun products, there couldn't be a worse buyer of Sun than IBM. :-)

Fabrizio Giudici replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 6:16am

Personally I see it as a disaster, agreeing with pessimistic responses above. And I think most of the Sun counterparts are much better than IBM's. I hope that the US anti-trust won't allow this.

OTOH, all the mentioned projects are open sourced and have momentum enough for the community to take over. Should some bad guy decide to cancel NetBeans, I'd be with the first volunteers to keep in going.

James Sugrue replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 6:26am in response to: Fabrizio Giudici

Interesting take Fabrizio. So if it did go ahead, then the fact that people like you are willing to keep things like Netbeans going would be a good thing for the community..

Jeroen Wenting replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 6:52am in response to: Wai Ho

"To anyone who likes Sun products, there couldn't be a worse buyer of Sun than IBM. :-) "
Indeed. IBM's trackrecord is not a good one. The only reason for them to buy Sun would be to remove a competitor from the marketplace. It would mean the end of just about all Sun products, and Java being subverted into something specific to the WebSphere platform (IBM isn't going to do a lot to make it work with competing appservers like JBoss or WebLogic, and is unlikely to do anything for clientside development where they have no business at all.

Jacek Furmankiewicz replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 6:59am

I won't miss NB that much, Sun's energy would have been much better spent investing in writing proper Eclipse plugins for things such as Python/Groovy/Matisse/JavaFX/etc. instead of pushing their own IDE at a time when Eclipse is a de facto standard in most shops. It's called being pragmatic, especially when you have limited resources.

But the impact on things like Glassfish or MySQL is much more worrisome. 


Umberto Zappia replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 7:41am

IBM interest it's only to gain market share on the server line, giving the new entry "CISCO".

I personally see Sun as a valuable software company, Open_Source minded, if the deal goes through developers are likely to take a hit, it's a good-bye to Sun Oss, the "empire" IBM only likes open source in so far as it can make money from it.

A nice move in my view for Sun would be to form two companies (something AMD did), one focused on server side market  and the other on its softwares.


Fabrizio Giudici replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 7:49am

Good point about the split, Umberto. There were rumors about it a few months ago, but you know, you can't guess which rumors are true in these cases.

Yacek, for what concerns NetBeans, it's not only the IDE. I mean - I obviously think it's much better than Eclipse, if the new NetBeans wasn't so successful and renewed I probably would have stayed with Eclipse - or maybe migrated to IDEA, since Eclipse proved to be very troubled during the PPC-Intel Mac OS X switch (not counting compatibility problems about plugins that occurred in the past). In any case, given what NetBeans is today, I would never switch back to Eclipse. A customer of mine, today, told me during the lunch break that there would be a "very bad mood" in his company if NetBeans went away since they are almost addicted to it.

But my fondness point about NetBeans is the _Platform_ - as I never liked the Eclipse Platform after having evaluated it a few time ago.

David Eby replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 7:57am in response to: Wai Ho

Oh, I don't know about that.  What about CSC or the like?  Or Microsoft?  Come on, at least IBM has a commitment to Java and Open Source.  If Sun were to be bought out (and let's face it, the possibility has been kicking around for *years*), what other buyer would be better? RedHat, maybe?  Who else?  Oracle?  Fujitsu? It's a really short list.

Ultimately, IBM wants to make money on software sales and support, so to the extent that Sun's software product line is profitable, my guess is that those will continue.  So, Java (of course) and Solaris will be fine, Glassfish as well (at least for now).  NetBeans, probably not.  JavaFX, maybe too early to tell.

All this talk about Eclipse vs. NetBeans, WebSphere vs. Glassfish, etc is interesting, but what about the really big effects?  What happens with OpenJDK, the JCP, the ASF?  More immediately, JDK7?  Does IBM have interests that it would want to see pushed in any of those arenas?




Guido Amabili replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 7:57am in response to: Jacek Furmankiewicz

Come on, Jacek!

I think Sun would have supported Eclipse if it was based on Swing!

I tell you, Eclipse is not installed on my computer at work and neither at home and I am not missing it....




Jacek Furmankiewicz replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 8:00am in response to: Guido Amabili

Let's call it priorities. I'd rather take the dozens of smart folks working on NB and assign them on the core JDK team, so that Java can catch up to all the languages it lost ground to in the last few years.

Especially with Sun's misguided focus on JavaFX, I look to someone who will put some muscle and focus back into core Java language feature enhancements...


James Selvakumar replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 8:07am

Ah that looks bad news for some great piece of software like NetBeans, Glassfish, MySQL, Hudson etc

I too see more negatives than positives..

God save Sun!

Fabrizio Giudici replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 8:18am in response to: Jacek Furmankiewicz

But priorities are either objective for a business point of view (and we can't easily discuss this as we don't know a lot of things and we don't know whether forecasts about this or that technology are correct or not), or subjective from a developer's point of view. For instance, I'm more than glad that Java stabilized instead of playing the catch game with other languages. Even considering that brand new languages were able to arise and build on the VM (Groovy, Scala, JRuby, etc).

Osvaldo Doederlein replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 8:21am

I'd hate to see that happen. Sun's portfolio is indeed very redundant to IBM's, except if you consider than in many cases, Sun's stuff is superior either overall or in specific features (IBM's products obviously have advantages too). In a worst case, IBM could just take the good bits (HotSpot, DTrace, ZFS, etc.) and port them to IBM JDK, AIX, WebSphere etc. and abandon Sun's products as we know them.

Even if IBM decides to embrace Sun's products, another problem is that IBM is not a very innovative company. I just don't see IBM pushing new cool stuff as aggressively as Sun... for example, the comparison of Solaris and AIX speaks volumes.

IBM's support for open source is ridiculous, they support some stuff like Linux and Apache projects but that's a drop in the ocean of IBM's massive proprietary portfolio. IBM posing as a FOSS leader is alike Microsoft doing the same due to their microscopic Shared Source initiatives.

There are also advantages in some areas, for example IBM's ownership of OpenOffice could be enormously benefical to that project and to the industry as a whole because Sun doesn't have the resources to seriously compete with Microsoft (as a professional tech writer & editor, I can't yet migrate to OOo because Word is much better in critical features like review). Differently from Java and Solaris, Sun didn't manage to find a way to convert OOo to a good revenue stream.

Tom Eugelink replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 8:25am in response to: Julian Exenberger

Well, I remember Informix. In fact I just debugged a query on it. It is still being developed and still being used. However, it does lag behind on some area's, but that has always been the case with informix. So migration is very much an continuous alive option. But so far, so good.

Jim Bethancourt replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 9:00am

Truth be told, Jonathan Schwartz has a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders of Sun and to see that their best interests are served. Googling "sun ibm talks" and reading through most of the articles on the first page, there were mentions that Sun has approached HP and others seeking a sale and was turned away. It's rather odd, because one writer mentioned that news of the acquisition could come as soon as the end of the week, and another said that the talks could fall apart quickly... It was also pointed out that while it would be a good deal for IBM, it would be difficult to get investor approval since it would leave IBM in somewhat of a cash lurch and would directly impact their profitability at least for a little while.

The viability of the various opensource products in Sun's portfolio (if the acquisition actually does happen) would still be pretty good. Many open source projects / products would be able to continue to be used by many folks: NetBeans has developed as an excellent Rich Platform and an easy-to-use IDE, Glassfish has become a healthy RI for JEE 5+, and MySql will still need support. On top of that, there are plenty of consultants who would be more than glad to help companies install / implement these technologies and projects / products on top of them, and along the way, they'll find bugs and contribute back fixes. I wouldn't be surprised to see SpringSource hire a number of the talented Sun Java product developers since they're heavily invested in the JEE-based market.

Perhaps the most interesting question is what would happen to all of the CDDL licensed software? Would the licenses likely be changed to make the projects / products more compatible with other open source licenses?

With Solaris having more marketshare and demand than AIX (see http://www.indeed.com/jobtrends?q=solaris,+aix&l= ), and Solaris having the ability to run on more platforms (including IBM hardware), it would only make sense that IBM would continue to invest in Solaris and to avoid doing so would only be at their peril. They might eventually attempt to merge the two codelines, but I imagine they would likely have to open source at least parts of AIX in order to do so.

Make no doubt, IBM is betting a huge amount of their future growth on Java, and I would have to guess they'll continue with the same level of investment in Java if not accelerate it. Let's face it - they want to up the ante in the competition with Microsoft and get as much of MS's market share as they can, and this would be a strategic acquisition in that quest.

Alas, JavaOne might not be the same ever again (even this year).

Christophe Jollivet replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 9:08am

When Oracle bought BEA, they did'nt kill all BEA products. They killed some Oracle's products, killed some of BEA,  and for other product kept best part of both and fusionned them.

Let's hope that if IBM buy SUN, they will  do the same...

Jacek Furmankiewicz replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 9:09am in response to: Fabrizio Giudici

Well, I disagree strongly.

From an enterprise point of view, it should be all about Java. All other languages are *nice*, but what percentage of folks really use them in production? Companies don't want solutions written in X different languages...there needs to be a concerted push to ensure Java is the best of the best, not just always playing catch up.



Bob Smith replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 9:11am

Agreed that this will be a horrible move.  IBM will kill or ruin all of Sun's good products.

How will IBM pay for this?   $6.5 billion is a lot of money in this depressed economy.  They'll have to pay at least a good chunk of it in IBM shares.

God I hope this isn't true!

Dominique De Vito replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 9:35am

There may be 50% overlap.

And while departures may happen, and inner political conflicts too, the remaining 50% of the SUN portfolio is going to suffer IMHO with such a deal.

 May be a good deal for shareholders, but not for customers. So, I don't really understand why $6.5 billion, indeed a lot of money in this depressed economy.

 So, I am not optimistic with such a deal.

 Why not doing instead more massive alliances on some subjects like Open Solaris and Open Office ?



Coffee Jolts replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 10:10am

IBM buying Sun will be like Adobe buying Macromedia. All IBM wants is control of Java, just as Adobe only wanted control of Flash. If this happens, it will be 100% IBM crap stuff from now on.

No Netbeans, use Eclipse and play find the plugins

No Swing, use SWT

No Solaris, use AIX

No Glassfish, use Websphere

No MySQL, use DB2 (and host it on an AS400, please)

This is horrible news for the Java community. This will be the death of Java as we know it, the death of innovation. Sun has not been perfect, but I'm certain that IBM will be worse. It's time to find another language.

B. Ertung replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 10:32am

Is this for real or just a rumor? My hope is that US anti-trust would not allow this because It will be the end of innovation over Java platform in a greater spectrum. IBM is a profit focused company. They will discontinue anything dragging their feet although I am pretty sure they will have JRE, JDK, Java plug-in, J2EE, J2ME and OpenOffice to continue. On the other hand, it will definetely be the end of all the other open source software Sun is promoting. Personal contribution to the orphaned projects would not cut it. The quality will be diminished over time as all the other open source software which are not backed by big companies or revenue.

I do not use any of the open source projects Sun offers, except the ones listed above so the IBM take over would not really change anything for me, but a technology icon like SUN should live on not disappear like Digital, Compaq, SGI (what good has left?) and others.

Hantsy Bai replied on Wed, 2009/03/18 - 10:25am

Today is fool day.

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