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At least it wasn't Oracle (chrisshort.net)
309 points by koolherc on Nov 6, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 134 comments

I've worked for companies that got acquired and also acquired other companies.

Year 1 is usually nothing and things stay the same unless there is some serious fat that needed trimming. The interesting years are 2 and 3. That's when the parent company tries to optimize things (e.g. streamline the sales force), create synergies, etc and you start seeing the changes. Depending on where you are in the acquired company, it can be heaven or hell.

I'd like to read blogs about the acquisition at the end of year 2.

The interesting years are 2 and 3. That's when the parent company tries to optimize things (e.g. streamline the sales force), create synergies, etc and you start seeing the changes.

In my one experience with acquisition, that's when upper management's bonuses got tied to "synergy" metrics and suddenly everybody had to learn a new relationship to reality. Almost everything we did for a whole year was dedicated to gaming those metrics, and our independence as an organization depended on supporting upper management's assertion that we were saving tens of millions of dollars. The opportunity cost in product development was enormous, but it was subtly and not-so-subtly communicated to us that now that we were part of BigCorp, we shouldn't worry about small time stuff like keeping things working and making customers happy. At least not in the reflexive, focused way we had before. Making and keeping deals was 15-dimensional chess to them, and they would tell us exactly if, when, and to what degree the dimensions of quality and product delivery mattered. Meanwhile we should do as little product work as possible and focus on the goal inflating executive bonuses by claiming imaginary synergies through integration.

>Making and keeping deals was 15-dimensional chess to them

I've supported sales cycles at small and big companies. I think this is one of the best one line descriptions of what really happens when big companies want to "sell to the CIO" or retain a large existing customer. Sometimes actually solving customer problems is not even 1 of those 15 dimensions.

It's dysfunctional all the way down.

The CIO being soled to isn't interested in "solving the problem" of their organization either. They have their own metrics, and so on goes the rabbit hole...

It seems like the moment big corps acquire a well performing product, product starts to loose its value, like trying to move a viscous liquid between containers using a sieve. Eventually, acquired product quality get completely destroyed and it end up creating gap in market that product was serving. I think its good for new product startup as it creates opportunities for them. Its like nonterminating cycle of creation and destruction.

And this is how its always been. Its similar to some kind of natural life cycle. All those founders out there seeking problems to solve? They just need to look at what big tech is acquiring and begin building a competing product. Often times the clients of the acquired company aren't pleased about having to a new relationship with Big Tech Co either.

Yep thats exactly how it goes. I have been in 3 companies that have been acquired and currently in 1yr mark of getting acquired with the current company. Thats exactly how it goes.

Interesting enough I had the displeasure of getting acquired by IBM and the first yr not bad. By year 2 to 3 and being fully converted to IBM culture I can tell you that most of the original employees of the company bought out had all left willing.

I left as well and I couldn't be happier. By far working as a senior level (forgot what band now) engineering consultant for them was one of the worst experience with a company.

They even tried to use legal action to prevent me from switching to another company.They also tried to stall me and BS me long enough for the offer to go away.

I gave them a chance and they matched the offer and terms. 6 months later IBM tried to change the terms of our agreement thinking the other offer was gone and I was at their mercy.

What they didn't know was the other company had been pursuing me for years so I called them and asked if they were still interested. They said yes and I took it. Put in my 2 weeks and IBM tried to stop it with legal actions. Luckily they weren't successful. They even wanted to go after the other company for pursuing me and asking who was the contact. I never told them who it was and said thanks but no thanks I'm out.

IBM was a horrible unethical company to work for IMO.

Run if you can and run early before the max exodus that is surely to come and your industry is flooded.

The funny thing was the day we found out that IBM bought us out one of my colleagues quit right on the spot. Myself and our supervisor at the time were surprised and thinking he was crazy to quit with out even giving them a try. Looking back now I would do the exact same thing if I were to find out IBM purchased our company.

I don't recall ever hearing anything positive from any of my IBM colleagues before,during, or after I left. Actually many former IBMrs called me trying to get out. It was the only company where I had worked at that had a constant bad juju feel about it and inundated with negativity from all the employees.

With other companies that bought us out the process was the same: yr 1 no changes, 2 little changes , 3 you are the new company. I actually stayed with the other companies , the only one I left was IBM. So the acquisition itself doesn't mean that it has to be a negative thing. In my situation the only time it was negative was with IBM.

I ran Engineering for an acquired company and that's pretty much exactly how it went down. You may have actually named the company in your post!

Year 1 was business as usual with things not changing a lot, but some integration work starting. That morphed into "we need to rewrite all of your software to make it better" which then turned into what turned into "build exactly the same thing but in a different language". We were a remote office and as attrition occurred, headcount was either not replaced or replaced by an equivalent at HQ. Morale and productivity were in the toilet with the prospect of basically a line-by-line rewrite that merely translated things to another language without actually addressing existing technical debt. I ended up walking away from almost 7 figures worth of unvested stock.

My experience of having been through 3 acquisitions: the person driving the process from the acquirer who says nothing will change genuinely believes it.

But a year later he will have moved on to his next role and the business unit the aquiree became now reports to a manager who doesn't see why you are "special" and should be treated any differently to her existing department. That's when things really change.

This always seems to happen because the drivers of the company usually get tired by that point or the large portions of their please-stay incentives have been realized and they leave. I've seen it happen w/ an IBM acquisition just like this one. While they don't "blue wash" things as much as before, years >= 2 are where what the company previously did stagnates and what exists is leveraged to the maximum to satisfy enterprise sales needs.

So right! It's been a career-long joke to me to contrast the language in the merger press release about immediate “synergies” and “efficiencies” with the “com.oldcompanyname.foo.bar” in the code 15 years later.

Basically the “immediate efficiencies” are laying off the recruiting and payroll people…

I think in most cases the synergies are thinning out rather fast, and the only positive effect that truly grow is financial muscles. If you do not depend on aggressive funding I suspect growing inefficiencies and complexities are the major forces.

An example from a customer that confided that after merging 8 national processes for reporting to various government agencies, the total running cost was unexpectedly almost 8 times higher than before due to the increased complexity and the amortised investment.

I suppose people know this, except the worst kind of bean counters, so this move is primarily motivated by “product brochure“ enhancement, absorbing a competent competitor that show some promise in a strategic area for IBM. The OpenShift business is just another mainframe in IBMs rather long history of "hybrid cloud“ strategy. They've been doing it for 50 years.

I've been part of 6 separate buy-out/merger/acquisitions (from both angles). In year 3 of current one.

The event, whether you are acquired or acquiree, presents significant and unique opportunities to move vertically and/or horizontally to improve your situation. If you're sitting there wondering about job security then you (a) didn't have job security in the first place; (b) are wasting everyone's time, including yours.

I don't think job security is the concern, I think job enjoyment and personal fulfillment is. For many here that I gather can work just about anywhere they want, sometimes the movement direction to improve your situation is outwards. The real time waste in several cases is hanging on.

I went through an acquisition myself and was told the same. In reality, nobody in our team ever got any opportunity that they wouldn’t otherwise have had. The main chances came from people resigning and leaving holes that someone else had to fill by working twice the load.

presents significant and unique opportunities to move vertically and/or horizontally to improve your situation

If you are better paid than the existing employees it's actually more likely that your salary will be frozen until it "harmonises" with them. You are also unlikely to have the contacts at the acquirer for an interesting lateral move, even if its permitted in the terms of the acquisition, I think the last time we were told there would be no internal transfers for the first two years.

My experience was different, things changed within a couple of months although they were both relatively small companies.

The process was remarkably similar even though they were quite different businesses. Middle management was purged quite quickly, shortly after that all the value creators walked.

In both cases the purchaser ended up with a customer database and some residual support revenue. This may have been their expectation all along, I don't know how the figures looked.

I've read somewhere that most acquisitions don't deliver any value for the acquirer. This is why their share price usually falls on the news.

> The interesting years are 2 and 3.

Indeed, after all what would be the point of going through the trouble of acquiring a company if major changes weren't coming ? If you don't need something special, there is a myriad of other option from simple client account to investment or the various partnership level, including shared owned subsidiary for R&D/other.

Conversely, what would be the point of going through the trouble of acquiring a profitable company and trying to impose disruptive changes rather than sitting back and raking in the profits? AFAICT this is what Berkshire Hathaway does, and it seems to work out well for them.

(Though this isn't necessarily intended to deflate any fears about IBM meddling at Red Hat; for a company as important to OSS as they are, any change is worth being wary of.)

Berkshire Hathaway is a different animal, it's a value investing play -- they have access to cheap cash and need a home for it.

Eg look at the acquisition of Anheuser Busch by InBev.

AB was a profitable company, but InBev is just very good at efficiency in brewing. IIRC they paid handsomely above market price at the time and were able to translate their efficiency to AB in such a way that the combined reduction in cost and uptake in revenue creates value net/net for InBev (and therefore AB)

But what is IBM truly good at that can be applied at Redhat? A lethal legal department? Super efficient HR processes? Office supplies management?

I doubt something in engineering and sales? Or perhaps sales is the closest answer.

Procuring large contracts from enterprise and government. It's pretty handy in business.

"Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM", is what they used to say. IBM has 100 years of brand-name recognition going for them. They have to be doing something right.

My big takeaway from the "merger" (read: takeover) of 2 Fortune 250's is: watch the management just under the C-levels. Their moves tell you everything you need to know about how it's REALLY going to shake out. If you see only one side of the house pulling the ripcords on their parachutes, well, you can't say you didn't see it coming.

I think it depends on where you are in the company.

For some areas change is immediate, others much slower.

and also what you work on.

I've been through it working on released and unreleased projects and how things are handled changes based on that

Absolutely true. When the company I worked for was acquired by a BigCorp year 2 was when pretty much 80% of the original engineers left, despite fairly large golden handcuffs.

That's the opposite of what I thought when Oracle bought Sun.

Q: What do you get when you cross IBM and Apple?


On the bright side, now RedHat employees can flash their new IBM business cards at International Brotherhood of Magicians shows in Las Vegas to get in for free, thanks to the terms of a trademark infringement lawsuit settlement from decades ago.

>On the bright side, now RedHat employees can flash their new IBM business cards at International Brotherhood of Magicians shows in Las Vegas to get in for free, thanks to the terms of a trademark infringement lawsuit settlement from decades ago.

Is this true? I can't find any references anywhere.

I heard the story from some IBM people while I was working for Kaleida Labs (a joint venture of Apple and IBM (as was Taligent), both the embodiment of that joke.)

Didn’t Apple and IBM work on an OS boondoggle back in the Windows 95 time period?

IBM and Motorola worked with Apple to make the PowerPC chips Apple used in their (i|Power)(Mac|Book) ranges for years. They called it the AIM Alliance.

Then there were Apple and IBM's two joint ventures: Taligent and Kaleida (where I worked on ScriptX until it shut down).




Working at Kaleida was like having parents who couldn't get along and argued all the time, so no hard decisions ever actually got made.

ScriptX supported QuickTime on MacOS, Windows and OS/2, but Apple was shy about IBM and other companies having access to the source code.

IBM desperately wanted everyone to use and love OS/2 (so they renamed it Warp so the cool kids would dig it), while Taligent was tasked at solving the problem of Apple's shitty operating system. Taligent also had their own weird incompatible object model, as well as CommonPoint's "people, places and things" metaphor, which they shamelessly ripped off from Schoolhouse Rock.


CHRP was the Common Hardware Reference Platform for the PowerPC, which IBM and Apple collaborated on. IBM made a CHRP PowerPC Thinkpad that ran OS/2, but out of pride refused to sell one that ran MacOS, which kind of missed the whole point of CHRP. IBM just couldn't imagine why anyone would want to run anything but OS/2 on them.

I would have loved to have a MacOS powerbook running on wonderful Thinkpad hardware, because Apple's laptop hardware was pretty crappy at the time. It would have been the best of both worlds, but it was never to be.


And then there was OpenDoc. There were actually two different incompatible implementations of OpenDoc, one from Apple on MacOS and one from IBM on OS/2, and they didn't talk to each other (which kind of missed the entire point).


IBM was shipping a bunch of OpenDoc stuff on OS/2 (Eric The Half-an-OS), and used it themselves, but nobody else wanted to use OpenDoc or even OS/2, despite their extensive advertising campaign and Warp re-branding attempt.


IBM's implementation of SOM (System Object Model), which their implementation of OpenDoc was built on top of, required that you use IBM's C++ compiler to get special optimizations, otherwise every message send was quite expensive.


Apple had their own implementation of OpenDoc that used their own compiler, and wasn't compatible with IBM's.

Apple used their version of OpenDoc to create CyberDoc, a component oriented web browser, which was extremely cool and flexible, but didn't go anywhere unfortunately, even though it was a brilliant approach.


At the time, CHRP and Open Doc were supposed to be "the future", but in reality, neither Apple nor IBM really had their shit together nor were serious about swallowing their pride and getting along well enough to develop products that actually shared the same technology and plugged together and synergized as well as they promised.

It would have been wonderful if both Apple and IBM followed through with their plans to their full potential: A CHRP PowerPC ThinkPad laptop running MacOS, OpenDoc and CyberDog!

Kaleida missed the boat on CyberDog, but was around OpenDoc early enough to go through the motions of adopting its Bento file format (FWTW), but never did anything with OpenDoc itself (neither Apple's or IBM's).

The fact that there were two incompatible versions of OpenDoc on different operating systems, and ScriptX was meant to run on both, made that kind of difficult to impossible.

OpenDoc required huge amounts of memory, and so did ScriptX, which had its own totally different object model (like Dylan + CLOS), so it just wouldn't have been practical at the time.

As sad as it was, Steve Jobs was right to "put a bullet in OpenDoc's head".

Jobs explained (and performed) his side of the story in this fascinating and classic WWDC'97 video: "Focusing is about saying no."


Q: What about OpenDoc?

Jobs: What about OpenDoc??! (nods)

Q: Yeah.

Jobs: Yeah. (sips) (smirks) (leans) What about it?

Q: (laughs) Ooooh nooo!!!

Jobs: It's dead, right?

Q: Huh??!

Jobs: It's dead, right? (nods)

Q: Oh, I don't know, I spent a lot of time working on it. And it kind of makes me sad.

Jobs: (shakes) Yeah? (stands) Well, let me say something that's sort of generic. (paces and gestures) I know a lot of you spent a lot of time working on stuff that we put a bullet in the head of. I apologize. (opens hands) I feel your pain. (genuflects)

(prays) But Apple suffered for several years from no, from lousy engineering management, I have to say it. (applause)

There were people who were going off in eighteen different directions, doing arguable interesting things in each one of them. Good engineers. Lousy management. (slouches)

And what happened is you look at the farm that has been created with all these different animals going in different directions (crucifies arms), and it doesn't add up (bends over). The total is less than the sum of the parts.

(prays) So we had to decide what are the fundamental directions we're going in, and what makes sense, and what doesn't. And there were a bunch of things that didn't. And microcosmically they might have made sense, macrocosmically they made no sense. (waves arms)

(prays) And you know the hardest thing is, when you think about focusing (fists), right, focusing is saying yes! No. (palms out) Focusing is about saying no. (palms down) Focusing is about saying no. (emphasizes)

And you've got to say no, no, no. (chops) And when you say no, you piss off people. (points finger) And they go talk to the San Jose Mercury, and they write a shitty article about you, you know? (spreads hands) And it's really a pisser.

Because you want to be nice, you don't want to tell the San Jose Mercury the person who's telling you this (holds out hand), you know, just was asked to leave, or this or that, it was that, so you take the lumps.

And Apple's been taking their lumps for the last six months (chops), in a very unfair way (spreads hands). And it's been taking them, you know (fists), like an adult. And I'm proud of that (pulls up sleeves). And there's more to come (spreads arms), I'm sure. There's more to come.

Some of these -- I read these articles about some of these people who have left. I know some of these people. They haven't done anything in seven years. And you know, they leave (waves hand), and it's like the company's going to fall apart the next day (shrugs).

And so I think (hands on hips) there'll be stories like that that come and go (pulls up pants), but focus is about saying no (Clinton thumb).

And the result of that focus is going to be some really great products, where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts (chops).

And OpenDoc... I was for putting a bullet in the head of OpenDoc. A: I didn't think it was great technology. But B: it didn't fit (shrugs). The rest of the world wasn't going to use OpenDoc.

And I think as a container strategy (hand on chin), there's some stuff in the Java space that's much better. And even the OpenDoc guys were trying to were trying to basically rewrite the whole thing in Java anyway (waves hands), which was a restart (shrugs). So it didn't make sense (hands on hips).

Yeah, the Apple Network Server running AIX with some Apple-specific customization. Interesting idea that didn't work out.

Ah, I was thinking of Taligent, and it was Windows 3.1 timeframe:


Having been in Chris' shoes (being acquired by IBM) I found the reactions of different people in the company most interesting. Several people had the same sort of "Everything is different now that IBM owns us." reaction, but if you unpack that, the reality is a bit different.

For a company like Redhat I can't imagine it will be largely changed in the first couple of years at least, so for that period of time you will be working with the same co-workers, and if you're not in the Redhat C-suite probably for the same boss in the same facilities on the same stuff. So in that regard nothing has changed.

What will be different will be access to a company that has been running for over 100 years and evolved over that time, at all levels. Facilities all around the world. Access to some of the scientists that you may have only read their papers but now can chat with via slack.

If you're currently an executive staff level type (VP, Exec VP, etc) and you're part of the acquisition, you're going to be landing in a whole different world of agendas and counter agendas, that can be tough to navigate. You will want to establish relationships quickly, they will be both rewarding and help you see things that might be coming your way that you would miss otherwise.

At its heart though, IBM is just another company trying to do things to make the world a better place and to profit off helping the world get there. You will find the Finance guys are ones who have the ability to make things happen or not, the marketing folks may often be distracted by shiny objects that don't seem to contribute to the vision, and some of the fading parts of the business are not going into the long goodnight easily.

And if you're patient and look clearly, you will see that fundamentally the company bought you so that you're technology could both improve the company and continue to grow in its own right, and so everyone is "on your side" to a large extent. The biggest danger to your dreams will be your own executives, not IBM. They are the ones who have gone from being masters of their own universe to a star in somebody else's universe, and sometimes that transition affects them in ways that isn't immediately apparent.

"What will be different will be access to a company that has been running for over 100 years and evolved over that time, at all levels. Facilities all around the world. Access to some of the scientists that you may have only read their papers but now can chat with via slack."

I have never seen this materialize in any big company. Different departments may as well be different companies. They never talk to each other.

Maybe not departments, but this statement is true: "Access to some of the scientists that you may have only read their papers but now can chat with via slack."

I've pinged many folks over Sametime (predecessor to Slack) just by having their name, you could then lookup their Sametime Id.

Most of the time it was over simple details, i.e "Hey, I see you're the author of this RedBook. In Chapter Foo Paragraph Bar, did you really mean FooBar or BazBaz?"

But hey, details are everything in our industry.

It was really nice to get the answer straight from the source, no matter which continent they were on. Anecdotal, but wanted to provide a counterpoint.

Yes, this was what I meant. I'm not sure what two departments talking would look like, but I do know what people hanging around after a tech talk discussing the subject at hand and brainstorming interesting collaboration ideas looks like.

I'll grant you that the technology Blekko brought to IBM (the crawler) was something that a lot of people who were inside the company were interested in, so there were inbound contacts as well when someone said, "Hey we're doing X and wondering if you can do Y?" And that often lead to a discussion about what crawlers could and couldn't do legally :-) But it also lead to lots of great collaborations on various data sets and projects.

"Companies" are filled with people who talk. The only place I've heard where this is a huge issue (from former and current employees) is Apple where secrecy is pretty rampant. And while every company seems to have some "special" projects that aren't discussed, general conversations seem to be fine.

At IBM there are a lot of really really smart people who have done really cutting edge research which for me, was kind of like being a kid in a candy store :-).

> What will be different will be access to a company that has been running for over 100 years and evolved over that time, at all levels. Facilities all around the world. Access to some of the scientists that you may have only read their papers but now can chat with via slack.

I too was in similar shoes. While I agree with much of what you wrote, I disagree with this point. The size and compartmentalization of the company precludes cross-department access.

If you could, would you share a time when you tried to interact with a different department and were unable to?

I ask because it sounds like we had different experiences there. I found all IBMers to be very open to talking about what they were working on, as slack became more widely deployed it was even easier. (Sametime as an IM client was a bit clunky). People would post on their 'home' page what they were up to some times, I talked at length with an engineer working with the atomic force microscope (AFM) in San Jose.

> If you could, would you share a time when you tried to interact with a different department and were unable to?

If this is what you meant, then my disagreement was misplaced as I never sought it out. By "access" I meant things like resource access on similar projects and the like. Watching 5 different cloud computing arms do the same siloed activities is what I meant. That open resource access is not fostered across the company by policy was my disagreement. Also, my experience predates Slack (but they did force us on Lotus email, ug).

> At its heart though, IBM is just another company trying to do things to make the world a better place

When has this ever been the prerogative of a multinational for-profit corporation?

Well within living memory, actually. IBM research labs made many contributions to human knowledge without necessarily expecting short-term profit. I still remember when their scientists used a scanning tunneling microscope to write the letters IBM in xenon atoms, five atoms tall.

We have to adapt to today's world, but we should remember a better world, one in which it was not customary to treat life as a zero-sum game, did exist, not so long ago. Social problems only become unsolvable if everyone forgets they were once solved.

I still remember when their scientists used a scanning tunneling microscope to write the letters IBM in xenon atoms, five atoms tall.

That is what is known as “a marketing stunt”. Same as having Watson play Jeopardy.

Sure, but the underlying technological capability was genuine.

> we should remember a better world, one in which it was not customary to treat life as a zero-sum game, did exist, not so long ago. Social problems only become unsolvable if everyone forgets they were once solved.

You’ll have to be more specific, as I’m not aware of any such world in recent memory.

>At its heart though, IBM is just another company trying to do things to make the world a better place and to profit off helping the world get there.

No, no, no. A big company like IBM may have started out that way, but what almost inevitably happens over the long term is that selfish, greedy, ambitious, power-hungry, sociopathic people become employees and work their way up to the top (or get hired from other companies where they have done likewise) and turn the company to their own ends. And these ends are generally bad for the employees, the customers, and quite often in the long term the financial well-being of the company.

Now it is true that sometimes you get a reformer at the top like Nadella at Microsoft who honestly wants to do things right, and has the brains to figure out how to do it. That said, it is quite clear that this has not happened at IBM.

> Now it is true that sometimes you get a reformer at the top like Nadella at Microsoft who honestly wants to do things right, and has the brains to figure out how to do it.

What kool-aid have you been swimming in?

Quite clear that this has not happened at IBM.

Imagine Jim Whitehurst being CEO of IBM in 2 years.

> IBM is just another company trying to do things to make the world a better place

Yeah. That’s why they helped the Nazis and invented ILMT.

No idea why you are being downvoted. IBMs actions during WW2 are well known. [1][2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_and_the_Holocaust

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_during_World_War_II

The virtualization sub-licensing racket is less well known. Big companies with virtualization offerings will sell you attractive licenses based on measuring usage with a tool like ILMT. IMO it’s intentionally complicated with the goal of having people fall out of compliance. If you end up out of compliance you can be in a position where they claim you owe based on full capacity licensing (a theoretical max) and the bill is astronomical. They use that to strong arm you into buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need, especially cloud offerings.

Oracle and IBM both do it.



Have you run into a situation where ILMT was deployed, kept up to date, clients installed on all servers (typically injected into standard image like part of an Ansible playbook or Windows slipstream or similar), required VM hypervisor port open to ILMT, and a PWC license compliance audit (now part of IBM Global Services) still came up with a different number than ILMT and forced that upon the customer? Because if so, I'd surely like to DM with you to exchange notes, as that would be the very first time I've heard of that happening.

I'd much rather deal with IBM using ILMT than Microsoft or Oracle licensing. Every single one of my customers who have used ILMT and came through a PWC license compliance audit reported to me that the ILMT numbers were accepted as the official count, after an inspection of the customer's asset database compared with an ILMT server list showed that the ILMT clients were deployed pretty much everywhere. Flexera negotiates a special dispensation from IBM to get their numbers accepted on par with ILMT, but Flexera doesn't keep up on a timely basis (within a month or two) with ILMT's tracking of new license models issued by IBM.

It is true that if you are not using ILMT and an IBM license compliance audit team comes knocking, then your life is going to suck. Then again, IBM tells everyone in the paperwork to deploy ILMT, and they've made it as easy as possible for nearly anyone (up to about 5,000 servers) to install and run ILMT, and of course it is no-charge software. Usually only takes at most a week for most sites to install, stand up clients, get the firewall rules right (or set up procedure for updates over air-gaps), integrate into LDAP and SSO, get into backups and verify, compare results with actual licenses (what IBM calls "entitled"), etc., where the actual ILMT install itself usually only takes an hour or less using their all-in-one mode.

As far as my Microsoft and Oracle folks have told me, there is no official license management system that is written into the license contract verbiage like ILMT is into IBM's that they will accept as the official count, that short-circuits any license compliance conversations dead-right-there. If you or anyone reading this knows of any, then please point me to the tooling, as that will save me a hell of a lot of time dealing with Microsoft and Oracle.

I used to work for Jet.com, which was acquired by Walmart, and I stayed there for about two years after the acquisition.

It was an OK place to work, and they gave Jet some level of autonomy, but I left when I read that Walmart wants to start "integrating" their stuff ours, which in my case was a lot of Java crap that was clearly at least 10 years old.

I doubt that my experience is atypical with this. Big companies like to buy smaller ones, but don't like having two versions of one thing, and very often they'll view their original version of something as superior to the one they just purchased. In the case of Walmart, I think they bought Jet exclusively for the name.

I'm hoping that IBM is smart enough to sit back and let Redhat do their thing. I don't really want Redhat to become something bloated and horrible like WebSphere.

Interestingly, I had a unique view on the other side of this. I worked at Walmart Labs at the time of the acquisition as well- remotely, from Jersey City. Long story short, upper management had changed, they were no longer supporting remote, at least not for management level, and I saw the writing on the wall that my future wasn't looking great- I fought against their massive tightly coupled Pangaea system (that Java code, shockingly was only a few years old, nowhere close to ten) and lost that battle, I was remote, my saving grace that I was working on grocery which was absolutely taking off at the time.

Anyway, I happen to go to a brewery and meet one of your product guys- he had a Jet shirt on, and I just went over and said hello. We got along great, famously actually, and after a few beers I said "hey you know, this remote thing... its not looking like a long term thing... you guys seem pretty interesting..." and we set up an informal meet and greet. I get along with everyone, and had a trip out HQ the next week. I poked around about Jet, and mentioned hey you know I live about ten minutes from their office, and yeah- all the talk was about how quickly they could get off their stack and onto Pangaea. I just fought that, and gone through the painful task of moving some stuff to their stack, and another 2 years of dealing with migrations and not focusing on customers just seemed terrible. I ended up leaving.

But yeah WMT in general is all about the "one right way" to do things. Which is great if its the right way, but I often used to say that there were a few bad teams that were just absolute anchors around the entire firm. I understand you don't want 10 teams building the same thing, but a little healthy competition is ok to me...

Where does Clojure fit in the technology stack of Walmart?

Cognitect has a few references that seem a bit old [1], but I see WalmartLabs release clj libraries from time to time [2], and I heard a podcast once where someone talked about working with Clojure remotely too [3].

1: https://www.cognitect.com/walmart-case-study.html

2: https://github.com/walmartlabs/lacinia

3: http://blog.cognitect.com/cognicast/087

I knew these guys, IIRC, clojure originally came from an acquihired startup. This grew into a relatively small team working on an e-receipts project that was remote but largely based in Portland.

The most interesting thing about that team was that it appeared that not just a beard, but an epic beard was required to on it. I keep in touch with one of them, but he has left the firm. The others... I should probably send a note to- those were good guys.

I guess more generally though, they are "off strategy" and clojure was not making inroads at Labs, at least at the time I had left. There was a lot of gravity towards only using Java on the backend, part of my friction with upper management was pushing node.js as a backend technology. My feeling on the Clojure guy was that they were a good team so they were left alone since they weren't a core feature and they never generated any noise. That's just my take on it though, why after the big upper management change they really bristled against certain teams and technologies but were content with others was not clear to me.

Before I sent this off, I figured I should look at your links- the featured guy in the podcast was the one person whom I had mentioned that I keep in touch with but had left the firm- as have the other two that were on it. I recognize three of the contributors to lacinia.

Got it, that sounds kinda disappointing. Also, Jet was one of the bigger faces of F# when it comes to big companies using it, so I guess... double disappointment :-( (I'd love to see both F# and Clojure become more popular on the job market).

With the recent walmat redesign and the constant new website features, I was under the impression that Jet had totally taken over the website(walmart.com). It's interesting to see that the opposite was the case.

Walmart has been making lots of e-commerce acquisitions, Jet was just the biggest. A lot of it is about growing outside of the traditional walmart customer- High end brands won't sell on walmart.com, and even if they did, high end shoppers don't go to walmart.com, but they have no problem going to Jet, or Moosejaw, etc. Jet was also framed as an acqui-hire of their management team, in particular Marc Lore. How true that is, I can't really say- another way to put it is, this seemed to be a move that came from above e-commerce.

The strategy is more about reaching different customers, and gobbling up potential competitors while they are small. The frontends may look a lot different, but its all one backend (or at least that is the end state for these acquired companies).

From my perspective, Walmart.com is finally seeing customer facing improvements as they have finally completed the backend re-write and migration which took literal years and held up most customer-facing work. Rewriting the FE, while not a small undertaking, is actually not that difficult to do with their architecture. Compare that to say Amazon, who I interviewed with, and they admitted that changing say the "Amazon orange"color to something else would be a herculean effort involving a year of planning across the entire company and lock step releases across the company. They seemed to think they had a better way of doing things, but after hearing that, I wasn't so sure I wanted to work there.

I feel with Amazon you can intrinsically tell by the formatting and lack of consistency in design between pages the hodgepodge of code running

Indeed. And listen every business needs to make tradeoffs, especially when you are just getting started. The job was described to me as running the "front page of Amazon" which of course sounded very exciting. I went to final stages there and it became clear that I was really going to be running a content management system, which is a bit different than I thought the job would be, but fine. But my last on-site at HQ, they really seemed to have a tunnel vision view on the problem, and just how siloed each team was became clear. I forget the specific question they asked that made it clear that changing any color would be a herculean undertaking, but I remember just being annoyed at how they seemed to have this air of superiority that they did things so much better than others, and seemed dissatisfied with my answers- to the extent that at one point I felt the need to make it very clear that to change the Walmart logo consistently, or turn it from blue to yellow or whatever, would be a simple change I could push from my laptop and have live within an hour. They were implying I couldn't handle the complexity and scale of their site, and I was in disbelief at the mess they had made of it.

Honestly the whole recruiting process had turned me off. They had reached out to me, and they baited me with the run the "front page of amazon" hook. I knew things were not headed in a great direction where I was, and it was right before bonus/vesting, so while I was not yet actively looking, I said just have a talk, make some contacts there. The recruiter I spoke to was unlike any I had spoken to, he felt like he worked out of a call center. He made it clear the position was based out of Austin, and I wasn't looking to relocate. It also became clear to me that this guy was just trying to fill this role, he had zero interest in trying to see what else was open where I might fit. Even though I wasn't looking to relocate, I figured I could wow them and either get them to relent on relocation or find a more local role that would fit. 6 months and several rounds later I finally get an on-site. At this point though, I had started actively looking, and by the time I got on the plane, had 3 offers in hand. I wouldn't have gotten on the plane, but I did kind of want to see the process through, I had never been to Seattle before and had a friend there.

I was really disappointed in the whole thing really, particularly their recruiting process.

Imagine the Java -vs- Objective C wars, if Apple had bought Sun.

Actually, Java is used fairly heavily at Apple for their backend systems. If you go on their job boards, you'll see quite a lot of Java positions.

Everything Red Hat does is open source.

You can't just change the code - then you also change the whole product development model. If IBM wants a change - then it must be preferred by the upstream community in order for it to happen. If they bypass this, then they kill the existing model and will find most engineers leave

With Oracle/Sun it was pretty inverted...the first year was a huge cash infusion, and if anything Sun hardware projects had greater potential than before.

And yet, within 5-6 years the entire hardware division imploded.

And, meta-comment: this site layout is frustrating on mobile, the text runs off the left/right edges slightly and it refuses to allow pinch/zoom. Sites really need to stop writing code to intentionally screw with readers.

With Oracle/Sun, there was an immediate exodus of some of the top employees, including people in the hardware group. This wouldn't have derailed projects close to shipping, but likely did derail planning for projects after that.

> And yet, within 5-6 years the entire hardware division imploded.

It always seemed to me as-if Sun's hardware folding was just somehow oddly delayed from all the other UNIX RISC players folding around 2000 (because of the unsinkable Itanium and the dotcum burst).

>And yet, within 5-6 years the entire hardware division imploded.

I always wonder what would have happened if Apple had bought them.

For decades, I've wondered about this too -- on its face it seems like an intriguing possibility, but deep down I think it was impossible. Reason: Extreme cultural mismatch. Not that they're so different, but because of their overlapping similarities. They would both have wanted to be on top, in the driver's seat, calling the shots. No way they would have gotten along. No mutual respect. Too many clashing egos. Especially during the Jobs years.

Oracle's acquisition of Sun was just sad, because they were wiping them out to make them go away, since Sun couldn't swallow their pride earlier and sell out to a company they considered themselves superior to, like IBM or Apple. So their window of opportunity closed, and they got scrapped and devoured by soulless vultures. An acqui-expire.

I would imagine some of the technology would remain, but all their current customers would have been jettisoned. I cannot imagine that the whole Illumos situation would have improved. I also think Java probably would have been dealt to IBM in that agreement a couple of years back.

Apple was not shy about telling NeXT customers to take a hike, and they are much bigger now.


Oracle guys doing conference decks with sailboats cracking jokes about how they accidentally broke EMEA sales and shipping by shutting off a data center on schedule, but before the apps were migrated.

Do you have more information about this incidient? It sounds interessting

Solaris would still be a major player if IBM had won that acquisition contest. It would have just been another flavor on POWER.

The Solaris team quit almost immediately though

No, the Solaris team quite almost immediately after the OpenSolaris re-proprietarisation in late-2010[1]. Sun was acquired in 2009. This was fast but not immediate, the reaction was mostly in relation to how Oracle treated OpenSolaris and not the acquisition itself.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zRN7XLCRhc

This article is really strange. the OP has only been at Red Hat for 4 months [1], and yet he speaks as though he's a Red Hat veteran.

[1] https://chrisshort.net/resume-cv/

My model of the OP (or writer of the piece rather) is that he felt he'd reached safe harbor at Red Hat, especially under his personally difficult circumstances.

Imagine feeling that, then hearing your employer was being acquired by pretty much the antithesis of that culture, on a decline and happy to destroy anyone for a perceived bump in their falling stock price.

It may be different if your perspective is that of a principal from some failed startup IBM bought. They were nice enough as long as the handcuffs lasted, you didn't care about the bogus 401k match, and your large-ish check cleared.

Not sure why Chris felt so much anxiety about the acquisition. Red Hat was already a huge company and things change. After all, it is just a corporate job and he can find another one, especially in this climate.

I can only understand his anxiety if he is an exec high up the chain and likely will be trimmed and his multi-million dollar salary is affected, and he has a huge mortgage, and lots of bills to pay and so on. Otherwise, life just goes on.

Hi, Red Hatter here. Red Hat is not just a corporate job for many/most of us. I'm here because the culture is fantastic and the deep understanding of remote working is vital to me.

Redhat was acquired for roughly double the market capitalization. IBM presumably is going to do something with the org chart to make good on that bet.

> I can only understand his anxiety if he is an exec high up the chain and likely will be trimmed and his multi-million dollar salary is affected

IBM's got a long history of layoffs over the past decade. The double edged sword of working remote is you have fewer opportunities in a job crisis like this. That said, line staff's phones and inboxes are probably blowing up with recruiters.

That implies that all corporate jobs (and corporations) are the same, which, while a popular theme on Hacker News, is not at all true in my experience.

Getting a new dev job, particularly for a remote Dev who is handicapped and uses some serious drugs to treat pain, is not as easy as you may think. Combine that with wanting to work in open source and Chris may value the current state of Redhat quite a lot.

> I can only understand his anxiety if he is an exec high up the chain and likely will be trimmed and his multi-million dollar salary is affected, and he has a huge mortgage, and lots of bills to pay and so on. Otherwise, life just goes on.

There are other sources of anxiety besides financial

I'm sure there's more than one reason, but he seems to indicate he works from home.

IBM apparently changed their policy on that in 2017.


> In the USA there was an edict last year for staff to work from specific offices based [on] their role

The one thing I can't understand is why people aren't more excited about the possibility for IBM to completely transform into an open-source-forward organization.

IBM does work for EVERY Fortune 100 company. I can't comment on the working conditions but as a person who regularly works with IBM I can tell you that they aren't much worse than any other 400K employee sized company. There are a lot of folks there that love process and a bunch that are IBM lifers.

Still, the potential to push open-source further into enterprise in a HUGE way, particularly in private cloud, and give a company that might not stomach a strategic relationship with a smaller organization like RedHat.

Please also don't forget that IBM is contributing to open source projects (Istio comes to mind) that align with their strategic direction.

For whatever little is worth, I work for IBM (but I'm still a nice guy, I swear!:), and I'm hyper-excited by this.

[if I were a RedHat employee, I might feel differently... 0:-]

While I work on what HN lovingly refers to as "Enterprise" applications (very legacy, very slow, very 1970s... and yes, very Oracle - PeopleSoft, Weblogic, Tuxedo, Oracle 12g:), there are parts of IBM that are shockingly agile, and have completely embraced open source both internally and as offerings.


Maybe their awful corporate conduct outweighs open source handwaving?

Maybe there are two sides to every story?

I'm a person who looks to the future and hopes that e can find a better way forward. The company has new leaders, new employees, and a new focus on cloud.

There are no losers when a 100-year old Fortune 100 company validates your strategy and values.

Theoretically someone could hire a bunch for Red Hat people and continue the business without too much interruption. The software is open source after all. Granted, the infrastructure would not come along and they couldn't use the trademark. But if I'm a customer and my rep tells me "yeah we had a mass exodus over to XYZ corp and are now supporting largely the same Linux stack under a different name" I may well take my business over there.

Yes, but whoever did the hiring would have to come up with some substantial capital in order to set up all the required infrastructure, and there would be a long lead-time before profits started coming in.

> after some consideration, I’ve decided to share my thoughts as a narrative timeline. Trust me when say that I have given this format considerable thought. It is likely the safest way (regulatory-wise) to deliver my thoughts on the topic.

Does anyone have any idea what regulations might impinge on Chris's choice of format for sharing his thoughts?

I think - the general guidance is, as long as his blog post does not include any information that isn't already public he is free to share his thoughts.

Does anyone have any idea what regulations might impinge on Chris's choice of format for sharing his thoughts?

None. People who learnt that their companies are being acquired via public news services are not in possession of any information the SEC would consider "insider".

The author did mention an all-hands with both Red Hat and IBM executives; there's a pretty good chance some "insider" information was shared there

It is very unlikely, because that's just not how this works. Remember all those execs have been in secret talks with each other for months without any employees having a single clue. They aren't going to divulge anything which could threaten the deal, not with billions on the line, not worth the risk that an employee would let something slip or even deliberately leak.

The company would likely be upset if anyone leaked and take disciplinary action, but the regulator isn't concerned with that.

perhaps since IBM is a public company and he's giving guidance?

> There were no folks reaching out from IBM saying, “Psst. Hey, man. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! GO GET HELP!”

That doesn't mean that there aren't folks who feel that way. There could, for example, be people within IBM afraid to speak out, even privately. There could also be people who have already left IBM who felt that way prior to leaving.

Most of who's left at IBM are either:

A. "lifers" who are biding their time until retirement and aren't interested in rocking the boat, or doing anything to make noise. They want to come in, do their time, go home and go fishing... lather, rinse, repeat.

B. New grads who have no clue what they have walked into because they haven't worked anywhere else for comparison and haven't been at IBM long enough to realize how dysfunctional they are.

C. contractors who really don't give a f%!# as long as their paychecks clear.

None would be particularly motivated to reach out to the people of an acquisition and offer any guidance.

380,000 employees at IBM, you're sure your 3 categories encompass everyone?

No, I left out all the offshore people because I didn't think it was relevant at the moment.

Categories don’t have to encompass everyone as long as the remainder are rounding errors. One of the most successful CEOs in the world works at every Fortune 100 company. Who cares.

I thought the same. I guess he reached the stage of bargaining around that time.

Red hat always seemed like a fun company to work for to me. I'm not sure how my opinion of that will change now IBM is holding the ropes.

Red Hat was probably my top company that I ever wanted to work in, but this time around couldn't find good open positions so joined another company (only a few months ago). I feel blessed because I'd probably feel really bad if I joined RedHat and then it suddenly became IBM. Now, next time around (in a few years) I'll know more about this whole IBM acquisition deal, and if RedHat is still a good company to work in, I can make an informed decision.

Can I ask why? I'm genuinely curious. My understanding is their core business is selling Enterprise support for linux, which, no offense to them, doesn't strike me as particularly interesting. I know they also contribute a lot of open source stuff back, but in terms of working in open source Linux a company like Canonical seems more appealing from my limited knowledge, just because their main product is distributed under a free license unlike RHEL. In terms of working on interesting new software/infrastructure platforms, working somewhere like Hashicorp, or even working at Google Cloud or AWS also seem more appealing.

Not trying hate on Redhat, I just never got the impression of them being particularly innovative. A lot of the most interesting stuff I have heard of from them seems to have come from acquisitions, like CoreOS or Ansible. In which case, I don't see why these acquisitions now living under the IBM umbrella is necessarily that much worse than being under Redhat.

> but in terms of working in open source Linux a company like Canonical seems more appealing from my limited knowledge, just because their main product is distributed under a free license unlike RHEL.

RHEL isn't distributed under free software licence?

> In terms of working on interesting new software/infrastructure platforms, working somewhere like Hashicorp, or even working at Google Cloud or AWS also seem more appealing.

I work on Openshift and Kubernetes and for me and barring Google I can't think of a company where I will get to solve as many interesting problems as I have solved at Red Hat. AWS is very new to Kubernetes and I do not think they have lot of people who can mentor someone just starting with Kubernetes. From what I have seen, if you work for a particular cloudprovider, you pretty much become goto guy for that cloudprovider in Kubernetes. It can be blessing or curse but at Red hat - engineers are forced to think one layer above. How will this work on Ceph FS, NFS, iSCSI and EBS? And yeah - You don't feel like second class citizen if you are remote at Red Hat. At some companies even though - they allow remote, they can exclude you, if they want all hands on the deck (like physically).

It is true to some extent that - Red Hat strength isn't churning out new technologies (but they can surprise you). But to Kubernetes for example - it has brought a stability for enterprise(again I could be biased). If you scratch the surface, many features in Kubernetes that you take for granted was developed in Openshift.

Canonical does much less upstream development than Red Hat. If you want to work on the upstream kernel, for example, Canonical is probably not the right place to work.

Also, RHEL is distributed under a free license; if you want it free as in beer there's always Fedora, and also CentOS which is also a Red Hat product.

Having worked at both an IBM and an Oracle acquisition, once you hit year 2 they'll wish it had been the other way around. A kind of nice thing about Oracle is they don't really want you to become an "Oracle shop" after acquisition. They bought you because you were doing something right, and they want you to keep doing that... just fill out these 10 obscure webforms at each step of the way.

Tell that to Sun.

> for $34 Billion (with a B)

What does the capital B mean? Is this long and short billions? I've never seen capitalisation used as a notation for that.

The "with a B" thing is just an idiom meant to underscore the magnitude of the amount paid. Essentially saying "You heard me right, Billion, not Million!".

Usually, that's just a stylistic way for the author to really push the fact that the dollar amount was in billions and not millions.

As opposed to Million (with an M), because it's just Linux, right? Free Software. How valuable can it be?

Most people, including me, are probably unaware what Red Hat is actually doing.

As in billion, not million.

It's a pretty big sum.

Unfortunately, the long billion seems to be going the way of the dodo these days.

Not in Europe

There is some precedence of an acquired company doing a brain transplant on its host. Think Pixar taking over at Disney, replacing accountants with creative folks.

Not familiar with IBM's current management enough to know if that is a possibility.

That's a very good point. I wish it were Microsoft, Facebook, or Google. But IBM is not the worst case scenario.

I'll argue that it's at least _a_ worst case scenario, at least from the perspective of most employees. On-thread IBM apologists (thank goodness not many) notwithstanding.

If I was talking to Red Hat about a job - and I just submitted a resume before this announcement - I'd break it off.

He makes reference to the fact that he telecommutes. IBM leverages relocation where they have offices, as an approach to fire a great many individuals. That would be my first concern if I were him.

He is completely right about mental safety in the workplace. Indeed, even as a long time IBMer with a great track record, I don't feel safe by any stretch of the imagination. This affects my performance and well-being.

I wish him good luck.


We've already asked you not to post like this, so could you please not do it again? Eventually we ban accounts that continue to break the guidelines.


Wow, empathy much?

Red Hat needed to die anyways. It’s a terrible ecosystem.

IBM aquisition is not bad in my point of view, it is big corporation which guarantees stability to the employees.

I’ve worked with IBM for the past 25 years of my life in public digitisation. They are the worst partner we’ve ever had, the absolute worst.

They sell things they can’t deliver, they never drive technology forward unless you pay them to, and then they get angry and confused when you pick someone who didn’t stand still over them.

Back in the day, almost everything we did ran in IBM mainframes, next year we’ll be signing away our last contract on any of our 500 different IT systems with IBM and we’ll never do business with them again if it can be avoided.

And that’s saying a lot, because I think most companies who sell software to the public sector are terrible leeches, but IBM always took it one bit further and never understood why no one loved them.

I mean, they still don’t get why nobody wants watson, and keep on trying to sell it, never realising that what it does for BI is stuff we automated almost a decade ago, and what it does for deep learning is so much worse than some of the smaller setups that you can scale by running them on AWS or Azure ( probably other clouds as well, but being public sector we’re in Azure and AWS ).

I think this will be absolutely terrible for redhat, and we’re already making exit strategies for the two jboss setups we have for when it becomes necessary in a few years.

I thought all big corporations provided employees the conditions for safety and security. I also thought that IBM was technology & inovation driven company like Google or Amazon, not only IT solution.

it is big corporation which guarantees stability to the employees.

IBM lays off employees by the thousands every year, paying only statutory minimum severance packages. This has been extensively covered by the trade press, e.g. El Reg. It is anything but a guarantee of stability, infact it is the opposite!

From what I've read, IBM doesn't sound like a very stable place to work anymore. Lots of layoffs.

There wasn't exactly instability in employment for Red Hat employees before the aquisition, so I fail to see how your point applies.


keep it professional please.

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