By David H. Andrews

IBM is rumored to have made a bid to buy Sun.  Should the JD Edwards community care?  We think so and plan to do a series of articles on this developing story.  The story is of interest first because a high percentage of JD Edwards software runs on IBM servers. Historically, JD Edwards customers have been very loyal to IBM, so most of you have an interest in what IBM does.


Sun appears to be caught in a downward spiral from which it cannot escape.  A desperate search for a suitor has led it to IBM’s door.  Rumors indicate that over $6 billion, more than twice the recent stock price, has been offered.  IBM seems to want to gain share, especially in the Unix server market where it is currently unable to make a profit.  Sun’s Solaris version of Unix and its Sparc processors bring customers and possibly valuable technology to IBM.


If the deal goes through IBM will need to decide what lives on and what fades away.  Solaris can already be run on Power processors so it seems likely that Sparc would be the hardware loser and fade away.  Only a few diehards are likely to care.  The smartest of the Sparc engineers would be used to help create future Power processors.


Over time is it hard to picture IBM fully supporting three Unix variants: AIX, Solaris and Linux.  IBM was already trying to nudge its customers toward Linux and presumably that would be the longer-term plan for Solaris users as well.


OS/400 (aka iOS) is already in IBM’s assisted living facility as it quietly fades away.  A Sun takeover would, if anything, modestly accelerate this trend as already limited resources get spread even thinner.  The push toward Linux for those running OS/400 would likely ratchet up over time.  Since all the operating systems in question will eventually run on Power, continuing to buy Power servers will likely remain a safe bet for JDE customers for now.


Individually, neither Sun nor IBM has a large enough share of the Wintel server market, including the blade sub-market, to fend off HP and Dell.  As one they might have a shot at prospering.  It is unclear which blade design would prevail but IBM always gives the losers a bridge to the future in these situations.  An acquisition would thus make it safer to make the switch to IBM blades than it now is.


The most interesting assets IBM would gain are Sun’s control over the Java development environment and the open source MySQL database management system.  If the deal goes through we can expect IBM to become much more assertive in promoting a new generation of its Eclipse based software development environment.


Most JDE shops used OS/400 RPG for development during the 1990’s and have slowly been moving toward to either Microsoft .NET or Java.  A few have kicked the tires on Oracle’s Java based develop platform as well.  A Sun takeover by IBM would likely strengthen the already strong case to move on from RPG to Java.


This story thus has significant implications for the JDE community and is thus worth watching – something we plan to do.  We will also soon be reporting on some fascinating new developments on this front that we have heard about through our own jungle telegraph system as soon as we can check them out.  Stay tuned.