Good-bye Solaris? The fate of Sun's top 5 technologies

April 03, 2009 12:55 PM EDT
By this time next week, IBM will have bought Sun at a cut-rate price. I'd long thought Sun was going to down for the count, so the news that IBM was moving in didn't surprise me. What happens next though? Specifically, what's going to happen to Sun's product lines? As a long-time watcher of both Sun and IBM, here are my best guesses.

1) Solaris/OpenSolaris: Could IBM just kill this pair of operating systems? No, I can't see that. Solaris has too many customers even now. What I can't see though is IBM spending any more money on developing Solaris.

IBM already has its own house-brand of Unix, AIX, and Big Blue had invested a billion dollars in Linux back when most people were still ignoring the penguin. Besides, the Unix server market share has been dwindling for years. Sure, IBM plus Sun equals the lion's share of the Unix market, but it's a dying market.

OpenSolaris will likely live on as a purely community-based operating system. After failing to gain any real traction against Linux, I expect it to become like the BSD operating systems: useful in niches and with a strong, core group of developers, but never to become a major operating system power.

2) SPARC/SPARC Servers: In three words: SPARC is history. The high-end SPARC business has been getting knocked around for ages by low-cost AMD/Intel servers running Linux for years now. Fujitsu will run what's left of the SPARC chip and system business.

3) Java: Java's creator, James Gosling, probably won't like me saying this, but I've long though that IBM did a better job than Sun with its Java implementation and the Java-related projects it supported, like Apache Geronimo and Jakarta.

IBM, unlike Sun, has also long been a completely committed open-source supporter. Because of this, I suspect that IBM will commit to completely opening up Java and its related projects and put them under the control of a revised JCP (Java Community Process).

4) NetBeans: This is an easy one. The NetBeans IDE (integrated development environment) is history. Long live Eclipse. Oh, NetBeans will continue you on as a community project. Open-source code never really dies; it just doesn't get checked out of the repository much anymore.

5) MySQL: In some ways, I think this is the most interesting one of all. MySQL is the DBMS (database management system) of Web 2.0 sites and most open-source DBMS-related projects. After paying a billion bucks for MySQL in 2008, Sun managed to chase most of MySQL's top programmers out of the company and annoy its commercial customers. Today, it's not even clear who's running MySQL and which direction the DBMS is going in.

I think IBM will be able to bring some order and sense to the MySQL mess. This will make both customers and developers happier. And, if IBM can combine some of its DB2 goodness with MySQL, that will be all the better.

In the end, I think IBM will do better for both programmers and users with Sun's software products. Solaris and SPARC will end up dying on the vine, but, they were already doing that anyway. But, what do you think? How do you see Sun's various lines faring under IBM?