Sun assumes full control of iPlanet

AOL loses interest

Sun is stepping in to acquire iPlanet, saving some of the jobs which were slated to be lost at the AOL-owned outfit earlier this week. iPlanet has been Sun's application server in all bar the formalities: it devised and owns the brand.

Not surprisingly, AOL/Time Warner has decided that it isn't really interested in enterprise software company after all, and is handing the business formally to Sun. iPlanet will become a Sun division next March, and for the 500 jobs that were expected to be lost, Sun has created 400 new positions.

The software that comprises iPlanet has had a tortuous history. Once upon a time there was Kiva, one of the first application servers, which Netscape acquired in stock deal four years ago. When AOL bought Netscape it threw the Kiva server - along with Netscape's other server software - into a joint venture with Sun. The venture got plenty of investment, but never the full autonomy of an independent company.

It’s been an expensive adventure for Sun, and at the end of the day has simply acquired some middleware, which it could have picked it up much cheaper if it had simply acquired it from Netscape itself (instead of from AOL).

But Sun has developed a taste for grand alliances - perhaps mindful of all the Unix folks who ganged up against it with their own grand alliances in the 1980s - and instead entered into an expensive splashy alliance with AOL. This also entailed AOL buying lots of Sun kit.

In leaner times, Sun shareholders would be entitled to be hugely unchuffed at pouring so much money into a vanity caper like this, but the dot.com bubble was the making of Sun, so at the end of the day what's the odd billion dollars between friends? ®

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