If IBM buys SUN, whose IAM suite wins?

We’re living in interesting times. With share prices at an all time low for many tech giants, its a great time to go company shopping if you’re big and cashed up. I remember the days when Sun IM was the beez neez of provisioning and identity life-cycle management and IBM Tivoli IM still shipped with “broken equals on” (not my quote).

Nowadays, the world of IAM and their vendors is a very different place. If you read reports published by Gartner, Forrester, et al there isn’t a great deal of difference between the different product suites. In fact, having worked with IBM, CA and Sun suites in the past, I’d confirm this from my own experience. IAM is becoming commodity technology.

Just in case you don’t believe me and still believe “<insert product choice  here> is the best” the 2008 IAM reports from Gartner show IBM’s Tivoli Access Manager products are only mildly ahead in the Web Access Management Magic Quadrant, while they’re almost neck and neck in the User Provisioning Magic Quadrant.

So if IBM buys Sun, what will they do with the competing product stacks? IBM will have a few options I bet you would never guess:

  1. Merge the product suites
  2. Kill some off
  3. Keep both

Number 3 is the least likely to me (obviously). Could you imagine the cost of supporting multiple code based? This will be even more interesting as the Sun suite is almost entirely open source now as IBM will never be able to truly remove a competing technology. However, owning (at least in principle) both technology suites would make IBM the un-disputed leader in installed IAM technology worldwide. But will that be enough to stop the rise of Oracle?

Anyway, I hope the Sun kit still works after they “blue wash” it. 😉

2 Comments
  1. I think it's worth considering the real challenge with the IAM suites. As many rightly claim, the major vendors have functional access control and user provisioning suites. An acquisition of Sun by IBM does not address the real challenge of moving those suites to production and delivering sustainable business value. The customers' problem isn't the availability of tools today – it's using them, and IBM understands this better than most. Nonetheless, the next few weeks will be very interesting for those of us in this sector.

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