IBM/Sun: The Technology Fall-Out

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If the merger goes ahead, IBM will have to make choices: Which database, which directory, and which virtualisation technology?

Directory Survivor Will Have To Take On Microsoft Active Directory

If all the overlaps in the potential merged company, especially key is the directory space. It’s likely that one would go, but that could be a good thing for all IBM and Sun customers in the long run.

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.