Well, it all fell apart this weekend. IBM pulled its offer to buy Sun off the table, and the future of the deal is uncertain at best. My first reaction to the IBM/Sun deal was that it was a 50/50 deal. There was a 50 percent chance that the acquisition of Sun would be a good idea and 50 percent chance that it would do significant harm to both companies. Frankly, IT cannot afford to take that chance. IBM and Sun are both too important to be weakened by a bad deal. Let me explain.
I have no real love for Solaris. I've used it extensively, consider it to be miles ahead of other operating systems in some respects, and miles behind in others. OpenSolaris is a Very Good Thing that's changing my opinions considerably, but overall, I wouldn't choose Solaris over, say, FreeBSD or Linux in most cases. I'm also not a terribly big fan of Java, and I regard it as a necessary evil in some cases, horrifically overused and abused in others. That said, Sun has much, much more to offer IT in general than its two flagship products.
[ Special report: IBM in talks to buy Sun. ]
First off, it's currently selling some extremely well-designed and well-built x86 servers. Just about across the board, Sun Fire servers are simply doing the job elegantly and at a low cost. I was so impressed with the Sun Blade 6000 chassis I reviewed over a year ago that I spec'd them for two completely different purposes: a VMware ESX farm and a compile farm. I'm happy to say that they've been completely problem-free, with the minor exception of a single failed hard drive in the 18 months since they went into service. The Sun hardware I've had in my lab has been polished, sleek, and extremely capable. Mind you, this wasn't always the case, and Sun certainly produced some flops in the early part of the century, but it has definitely righted that particular ship.
Sun's storage products are also quite impressive, with its new Unified Storage Servers offering huge amounts of extremely fast storage based on low-cost, low-RPM SATA drives and the miracle that is ZFS (Zettabye File System, another Sun development, of course). And obviously, there's the large installed base of SPARC systems, including the impressive SPARC T2 and the myriad other products available from Sun. They have an unmistakeable presence in the IT world.