The biggest losers in the Oracle, Sun deal

* The identity management persepective of the Oracle, Sun deal

Last week was the annual RSA Conference, which was the reason for lots and lots of press releases being, well, released. Unfortunately (depending on your point of view), most of them got overlooked because two Silicon Valley "legends-in-their-own-time" shook hands on a blockbuster deal as Oracle agreed to purchase Sun.

Slideshow: Hottest tech M&A deals of 2009

I, for one, was totally shocked by the announcement when it plopped into my inbox early Monday morning. At first I thought it was simply a belated April Fool’s message. After all, from our (identity management) perspective the deal makes no sense whatsoever. Both organizations have almost full identity management stacks for about 99% overlap. If identity management were the major business of these two organizations, the U.S. Government would block the acquisition on antitrust grounds. But identity management isn’t their biggest business. In fact, most general, business and technology news stories about the deal failed to even mention that the two are among the biggest vendors of identity management software. Just goes to reinforce what we always knew the world thought of us!

I did talk to and exchange messages with a lot of the people I respect in identity management, though, and I’d like to share their thoughts with you. There’s far too much to include in one newsletter, so I’ve posted many on my Virtual Quill blog site. But let’s examine some of the more widely held thoughts.

First and foremost, the biggest losers in this deal would appear to be the users – those who use Sun’s Identity Manager but also (surprisingly) those who use Oracle’s. It seems obvious that the combined organization won’t support both stacks. It seems equally obvious that Oracle won’t sell of one to a potential competitor. So some things, many things, will have to go. Not overnight, but in time one stack or the other – or, more probably, parts of each – will wither away. 

My good friends at Oracle, and whichever of the fine members of the identity team at Sun that will be joining them, need to make haste, slowly. They need to move quickly to decide what the roadmap will be, laying out their plans for meshing (and weeding out) the various facets of their identity stack. Then they need to move slowly to carry out the plan so that customers can comfortably make the inevitable changes at a deliberate pace. Anything else and those customers will be looking for somewhere else to go, somewhere that offers them some stability.

There was another issue that showed up more than once in my conversations about this acquisition, a more surprising one. I'll get to that next time.

Events: Next week (May 5-8) is the European Identity Conference in Munich. I’ll be there, and if you will be also be sure to say “hi!” and let me know what you think about current issues in identity management.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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