TECH ANALYSIS: IBM could help its flagging storage business by buying Sun, which has boosted its tape storage portfolio through the StorageTek acquisition and has been innovating throughout its storage line. IBM also would be able to take advantage of the growing desire among many enterprises to migrate their mission-critical applications off costly mainframes and onto a more open platform, such as Sun's OpenSolaris and Open Storage. And they could use IBM Global Services to do the migration work.
You can say anything you want about why IBM may be buying Sun Microsystems
, but I think it's all about storage.
In the storage world, Sun has continued to innovate while IBM has
continued to stagnate. IBM largely sells its own old technology and
resells storage technology built by others, such as NetApp and LSI.
Sun-although it's milked the technology acquired with the purchase of
StorageTek-has recently returned to innovating.
IBM has been steadily losing market share in the storage market
while Sun has been shaking things up with the new Storage 7000 Unified
Storage System (look for my review this May), which pools multiple
devices together to form a kind of network-based RAID and facilitates
data migration across various hardware technologies housed in separate
physical units. Coupling the Open Storage initiative with both
commodity and high-performance storage devices in a tiered fashion has
boosted Sun's revenue in recent quarters.
One aspect that is worthy of consideration is the mainframe storage
play. Believe it or not, there is still a lot of big iron out there
that costs companies a small fortune to maintain. Replacing a single
storage platter on a mainframe can run thousands of dollars and does
not move the company forward. Instead, it further locks it into
continuing to run mission-critical apps on legacy (and expensive)
hardware. Every company I've spoken to about this has said it can't
wait to get off the mainframe, but at the same time simply can't
migrate due to the mission-critical nature of the apps.
I strongly suspect that if this scenario is true, then IBM is making
the move to acquire Sun because Big Blue is sick of Fortune 500
companies migrating off of the mainframes and onto someone else's
(read: Sun, Hewlett-Packard, Dell) commodity hardware.
Think about this pathway: Company X is throwing money out every year
struggling to keep that mainframe running optimally because it
continues to host mission-critical apps. The writing is on the wall and
they know they need to get off the mainframe. Now, they can hire IBM
Global Services to come in, partition the mainframe to also run OpenSolaris
, and use Open Storage
to add primary, secondary and tertiary storage using commodity storage
hardware instead of expensive proprietary mainframe storage.
This applies especially to backup and archive, where needs continue
to grow. While mainframe storage hardware prices go up over time,
prices of commodity storage that can be accessed using Open Storage
Matthew D. Sarrel is executive director of Sarrel Group, an IT test lab, editorial services and consulting firm in New York.
More eWEEK Labs analyses about the effects of a possible IBM/Sun
eWEEK Labs Examines IBM,
Sun Product Synergies, Overlap
Open-Source Community Would Win
Directory That Lives Competes More Strongly with Microsoft Active Directory
Databases Would Feed Off Each Other