The speed things happen in the IT industry never ceases to amaze.
I spent yesterday at a family funeral, away from the distractions of PCs and mobile phones and only discovered about Oracle buying Sun late last night. In a world where every move made by vendors is spotted, analysed, pulled apart and put together again, this came like a bolt from a blue. No publication, analyst firm, blogger predicted that one (or if anyone did, it certainly didn't garner much attention). It's a huge move and the implications are many.
The starting point for Sun was that someone had to buy it. The negotiations with IBM had revealed its desperate straits - if the tanking share price wasn't guidance enough and if IBM pulled out - the only question was ‘who'? Much of the smart thinking was on IBM and Sun getting back to the negotiating table, even though there were several issues to overcome.
The Oracle move solves all that. With no hardware overlap, there's less for the regulators to worry about - they might take a glance at the Oracle 11g and MySQL clash, but that's small beer compared to the dominance that Sun and IBM would have had in the server market. That lack of interest from the regulators alone gave Oracle an advantage.
Then there's the fact that Oracle has just started dipping its toe into the hardware space. Buying Sun is not just dipping its toe in - it's swimming the Channel - but clearly Oracle sees a good overlap between the two sets of products.
Thirdly, there's Java - the driver for much of Oracle's middleware offerings. Owning Java would be seen as an important strategic move by Oracle.
It's not going to be plain sailing. Sun's strategy has not focused on cost but on excellence. It's never had the cheapest products but has had many of the most interesting. Under Jonathan Schwartz the company has even more explicit about seeking the developer vote, better that the techies held some clout. Schwartz's strategy was by appealing to the grease-monkeys in the enterprise engine rooms, Sun would be able to increase its foothold. It's a strategy that never looked like paying off and led Sun deeper into the mire.
But it certainly hasn't found a kindred spirit in Oracle. It's a company with some good products but most of all it's a company with a reputation for protecting its assets, for maximising its revenue and squeezing every last cent from its product line. Expect some ruthless job shedding and the sight of Sun products being sold like they've never been sold before. I'm sure there'll be some interesting, er, debates between the two sets of employees over the coming months as they agree on a merged product line. The company will have to make some hard decisions about Sun's product line, deciding which products to keep.
Oracle has swallowed some big companies in the past and has incorporated them into the company more or less effectively. Sun presents a bigger challenge than before but if Oracle pulls this off, then the market is suddenly going to become very interesting. The summer is often described as the ‘silly season', when news dries up. Somehow, this summer might not be so silly after all.