Perchè il Sole può diventare Blu (Big)

IBM pare arrivata a pochi passi dall’acquisizione di Sun (via Cnet)

The time is now. IBM is a software and services company, but it needs hardware, which would be roughly a third of revenue with Sun, to sell its other offerings. Hardware is often the entry point for IBM’s software and services. With a stronger hardware business it can fend off HP in the marketplace.

Sun is a powerhouse in Unix, which is still a key platform, but isn’t exactly gaining in the market these days. IBM could acquire Sun and establish two key beachheads: Linux and Unix. The former will ultimately take over for the latter in the data center. IBM can play both and sell you the services to migrate while it’s at it. Bonus for Big Blue: Sun would enable it to pressure HP’s Unix-based businesses too. One problem: IBM sells AIX Unix servers. Sun sells Solaris (hat tip to a reader pointing that out).

Sun has to do something. Sun is a company that has to transition a legacy hardware business to one modeled more on open-source software and services. That’s a wrenching change that may not work out. An exit ramp makes sense right now. Besides, Sun was reportedly turned down by Hewlett-Packard and Dell was mum.

This is about HP–NOT Cisco. The initial headlines will paint IBM’s move as a reaction to Cisco’s entry into the data center. The reality is HP is the target. HP acquired EDS to directly take on IBM. IBM is returning the favor by squeezing HP on hardware.

Open-source software. Sun’s future is offering an open-source stack of software led by MySQL at its core. IBM is all about open source. The two together make a lot of sense and IBM could pull MySQL, Lotus, OpenSolaris, and other parts together in a nice stack. In addition, Sun’s open-source software needs distribution–it recently did a deal with HP. IBM has distribution galore.

One problem: There’s a lot of software overlap here. In databases, IBM has DB2 and Sun has MySQL.

Java. Java is arguably Sun’s best asset, but the platform was never monetized. Perhaps IBM will have better luck.

Cloud computing. Sun has some interesting ideas on cloud computing and its plans could work. Sun has also made targeted cloud-computing acquisitions. Meanwhile, Sun has a cloud-computing press conference Wednesday morning, a shindig that will be dominated by IBM talk now. A few folks seemed to buy that Sun-as-cloud-player marketing, but it really looks like a relabeling to me. IBM could absorb Sun’s plans in its big cloud services offering.