Big Game Hunter

Sun Microsystem's CEO Scott McNealy recently mused on the record that his company is poised to begin making larger acquisitions in the pursuit of more aggressive financial growth.

Indeed, this is welcome news from Sun, if almost a decade late.

In order to compete toe-to-toe with other big iron vendors as well as drive server sales, Sun needs a complete software stack. Ironically for Sun, it competes last in a category it helped create - enterprise server-side Java applications development.

Sun is either completely missing key components in the J2EE stack, or pushing components which have little to no traction. It has the OS portion down cold - despite defectors migrating to various Linux distros - Solaris is still held in high regard by large companies looking for that critical blend of high availability and vendor support.

Conversely, though Sun's Java Enterprise Server (or, is that iPlanet? or SunONE? or N1? or...) may be a fantastic J2EE application server, IBM's WebSphere, BEA's WebLogic, JBoss AS and Tomcat own the playing field. Sun's HTTPD product (again, formerly iPlanet, formerly SunONE, formerly...) is pitched as a catch-all web server for Java, PHP, and ASP (yes, they're still pushing ChiliSoft's ASP-on-UNIX), despite the fact that ASP sans .NET is a thing of the past. Sun is also missing key components - it has no relational database, for instance.

Sun's hit-list of companies should include a J2EE app server, a database, and - although Solaris is still a hit - a Linux vendor.

In the J2EE app server space, Sun should work towards bringing BEA into the fold. WebLogic would finally make them a real contender. In databases, though Oracle would be too large a bite to swallow, Sybase is an attractive target, with less than a tenth of Sun's market cap. Given the enmity with RedHat, Sun should set its sights on Novell - which brings not only an excellent Linux distro, but a strong portfolio of products for desktop Linux (giving Sun an "out" with its failing Java Desktop) and the Mono project (giving Sun an out for the aging ChiliSoft).

BEA and Novell also have a lot of good karma built up in the open source community, which Sun could capitalize on in driving its CDDL licensing scheme.