Reactions mixed to report that IBM may buy Sun

The Internet is ablaze this morning with chatter about a report in the Wall Street Journal that IBM has made a $6.5 billion offer to acquire Sun Microsystems.

Just as no one ever got fired for buying IBM, no one's going to make a living second-guessing Big Blue, either, so I won't. Here's a quick sampling of what's being said by others about the prospect:

Jyske Bank analyst Robert Jakobsen tells Reuters:

"It makes sense in an industry consolidation view, but looking at Sun's performance over the last couple of years, it's not one of my top picks for IBM to buy. Having said that, there's clearly a huge synergy combining these two companies. ... It will lessen the competitive pressure within the data center. The market hasn't been kind to Sun Microsystems in the last 12 months, so it's not an expensive acquisition in my view."

IDC analyst Nathaniel Martinez sees benefits for both companies:

Regarding MySQL, "bringing IBM into the picture, with its services arm, could be something that could turn that into actual dollars in the future," he said.

Sun also has a huge installed server base, and many of them are currently looking at migrating to Linux. A deal would be a way for IBM to grab Sun customers who are using RISC-based servers, Martinez said.

Industry analyst and Network World blogger Curt Monash breaks down the database implications:

IBM is already serious about supporting multiple database management systems. DB2 on open systems is IBM's flagship DBMS. But DB2 on mainframes and at least one flavor of Informix seem to be getting maintained and enhanced fairly seriously as well. And IBM has further DBMS products as well (e.g., DB/2 on the AS/400). There's little reason to think IBM would orphan MySQL or any other DBMS product.

Interarbor Solutions principal analyst Dana Gardner suspects it's much ado about little:

Someone has floated a trial balloon, through a leak to the Wall Street Journal, that IBM is in "talks" to buy Sun Microsystems for $6.5 billion. The only party that would leak this information is Sun itself, and it smacks of desperation in trying to thwart an unwanted acquisition, or to positively impact another deal that Sun is weak in.

If  IBM wanted to buy Sun it would have done so years ago, at least on the merits of synergy and technology. If IBM wanted to buy Sun simply to trash the company, plunder the spoils and do it on the cheap - the time for that was last fall.

ZDNet's Larry Dignan believes the deal has long made sense:

Behind the scenes here, we've frequently had chats about how IBM would take out Sun. The only real debate was whether Big Blue would acquire Sun in parts or as one sum. The working assumption was that Sun would be broken up and sold in parts, but the IBM deal also works nicely. Here's why the deal makes some sense:

IBM can acquire server and storage share. Sun still has a lot of hardware on the market in key verticals such as finance and telecommunications. The problem is that Sun is reliant on U.S. sales and that's not a fun place to be right now. With Cisco Systems entering the server market, the profit margins could be squeezed--especially if the server essentially becomes a storage and networking box too. By acquiring Sun, IBM gets more scale so it can endure the margin squeeze. That same argument holds for storage hardware too.

CNET's Matt Asay sees Big Blue bringing a measure of parental guidance to the union:

IBM is apparently in talks to acquire Sun, according to The Wall Street Journal. Sun has struggled to revive its financial prospects in the wake of declining interest in its Solaris operating system and associated hardware. Open source has been the big bright spot for Sun, but Sun's ability to recoup hardware losses with free software has been suspect.

IBM could fix that. IBM knows how to make money from software, and could lend a hard-edged pragmatism to Sun's open-source idealism.

A search on Twitter for "IBM Sun" shows a similarly mixed bag of comments piling up at about 15 to 20 per minute. Here are a few:

thowland: IBM made a 6.5BB offer to buy Sun yesterday. Good thing Sun GPL'ed java last year, or this could be a real problem.

maingauche: Sun may be purchased by IBM. That's a gift for shareholders, the company has been dead for awhile.

dushyanth: @rossmason Sun was like the stupid kid on the block with the cool Pool (Java). IBM will be the mean rich kid with the Pool.

And, finally, a commenter left this message on Network World's version of the story: "Gulp."

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