eWEEK Labs on IBM/Sun: Surviving Directory Would Challenge Microsoft Active Directory

TECH ANALYSIS: If IBM does acquire Sun Microsystems, what will become of the companies' respective directory platforms? It's likely that one would go, but that could be a good thing for all IBM and Sun customers in the long run, including from a security perspective, as the surviving directory is honed to compete with Microsoft Active Directory.

There are many product areas that will overlap if IBM does acquire Sun Microsystems, but especially key is the directory space.

IBM and Sun have directly competing directory servers, and directories are at the heart of the access control systems that end-user security products depend on. This is particularly true of large, regulated enterprises, where IBM and Sun are likely incumbent suppliers.

IBM Tivoli Directory Server is currently available on a wide range of platforms, including Solaris, Windows, HP-UX, various Linux versions and, of course, IBM's eServer System i, p and z platforms. Sun's Directory Server, which runs on Solaris, is also a high-performance LDAP data store for identity information.

It is likely that one of the two directory platforms would be ditched if IBM were to acquire Sun, although it's hard to say which. In either case, a customer company having to migrate from its Sun directory to IBM's directory or vice versa would face some significant challenges at first.

That said, the directory that makes the cut will theoretically be the beneficiary of both IBM's and Sun's directory engineering prowess, which can only be good for customers in the long run as IBM works to compete with Microsoft's nearly ubiquitous Active Directory.

In addition, enterprises currently using one or the other of these platforms could reasonably expect to see more rapid development of security tools on a highly scaled directory platform.
And, while enterprise IT managers would encounter disruption in the face of a directory migration, it's not such a bad thing to take a strategic moment to thoroughly evaluate your directory platform. While there's never a good time to switch directories, an inflection point like the merger of IBM and Sun could be a golden opportunity to consolidate and secure directory information.

More eWEEK Labs analyses of the effects of a possible IBM/Sun merger:

eWEEK Labs Examines IBM, Sun Product Synergies, Overlap

Storage Is the Key Technology

Open-Source Community Would Win

Databases Would Feed Off Each Other