Partners' Opinions Mixed About Possible IBM Purchase Of Sun8:14 PM EST Wed. Mar. 18, 2009
How the channel views the potential impact from IBM's possible acquisition of Sun Microsystems depends on which side of the aisle partners stand.
IBM is in talks to acquire Sun for $6.5 million, according to a report in Wednesday's The Wall Street Journal.
On one hand, solution providers with a strong Sun focus say IBM would end up with some great technology from Sun in such a deal, but customers might think twice before making a Sun purchase.
On the other hand, those with a strong IBM focus say there are nice aspects to such an acquisition, but that IBM's technology trumps that of Sun.
An acquisition of Sun might not be the best acquisition IBM ever made, but it would be a good buy, nonetheless, said Pete Elliot, director of marketing at Key Information Systems, a Woodland Hills, Calif.-based IBM solution provider.
"There are going to be different levels of complexity to address," Elliot said. "Sun has a whole different channel strategy than IBM, and so there could be issues."
The difference in cultures between the two companies extends to the customer base as well, Elliot said. "The Sun zealots will probably jump to Hewlett-Packard, but the rest will work with IBM," he said.
While Sun's hardware offerings have lapsed behind those of IBM, Sun would bring some interesting technologies in an acquisition, Elliot said.
"Sun would bring Java to IBM," he said. "That would be a good deal for IBM. I think IBM could do a lot more with Java than Sun did. And Solaris is a good operating system."
Gerry Hansen, chief operating officer at N'compass Solutions, a Minneapolis-based Sun server solution provider, said that IBM has not been as innovative as Sun in recent years in developing servers and storage products, and that a Sun acquisition would help IBM regain momentum in those markets.
Hansen said that he is not overly concerned about the future of Sun's products if the acquisition goes through. "Sun has a lot of intellectual property and innovative technology that's in high demand and isn't going away any time soon," he said.
Alani Kuye, principal with Phantom Data Systems, a Norwalk, Conn.-based solution provider that was a Sun channel partner until a few years ago before switching to IBM's System i servers and Lotus software, said that Sun's services business could give IBM a boost in the same way HP benefited from its acquisition of EDS.
One HP partner, however, said that HP will be the main beneficiary should the acquisition become reality.
Michael Haley, president of Edge Solutions, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based HP solution provider, said that HP has made huge headway in servers compared to IBM.
Deals the size of the one rumored between IBM and Sun inevitably introduce a certain amount of disruption that can send customers to safer harbors. "You don't swallow Sun overnight and retain people and products," Haley said. That would be particularly true given the two vendors' very different cultures that he described as "West Coast with flip flops and East Coast with suits and ties."
Meanwhile, one solution provider with good relationships with both vendors said he wishes the whole situation would just quickly get settled before customers get unsettled.
"My only concern is that this deal or non-deal doesn't drag on and on," said John Murphy, executive vice president of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based partner of both vendors. "Either come to an agreement and tell customers they will be protected, or tell people it was just a rumor."
Murphy said the widespread nature of the acquisition rumor certainly gives it validity, and makes it an issue that must be addressed by the vendors as quickly as possible, especially for the subset of Sun customers who might be concerned about the vendor being sold.
"The same customers who might be nervous or distracted by this are the same ones who are concerned about Sun's viability in the market," he said. "But IBM has a good track record with customers, and doesn't have a history of dropping customers by the side of the road."
Rick Whiting and Jennifer Bosavage contributed to this article.