经济学人官方译文 | IBM收购红帽是史上最大的软件企业并购案

Information technology
IBM’s rebel yell
The group’s takeover of Red Hat is the biggest ever between software firms

BIG BLUE is donning red headgear. Even a few months ago the idea that IBM, a venerable corporate IT firm, would buy Red Hat, the biggest vendor of open-source software, would have been considered highly unlikely, not least because of IBM’s aversion to big mergers. But on October 28th IBM announced that it would take over the firm for $34bn, which represented a 63% premium over Red Hat’s closing share price at the end of the previous week.
蓝色巨人给自己戴上了红帽子。就在几个月前,外界还认为企业IT服务老店IBM收购最大的开源软件供应商红帽(Red Hat)的可能性极小,主要是因为IBM不喜欢大规模并购。但在10月28日,IBM宣布将以340亿美元收购红帽,比前一个周末红帽的收盘价溢价63%。

Red Hat is no household name, but in the IT industry the firm is considered a big success. Founded in 1993, it reached $2.9bn in revenue in its most recent fiscal year. It takes free open-source software, makes some improvements, bundles it with other tools and services such as technical support, and charges a monthly subscription fee. The first product was a version of Linux, an operating system. It later acquired or developed more and more pieces of software that are needed to power computing clouds. One of the latest additions to its collection was OpenShift, a program that allows computing tasks to be easily moved around between data centres.

IBM, for its part, has been struggling in recent years to transform itself from a firm which made most of its money from IT services, software and mainframe computers to one that is based on cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI). After 22 quarters of declining revenue, IBM seemed to be over the worst when its turnover started to increase early this year. But in the most recent quarter, revenue dipped again.

The deal will probably mean that Ginni Rometty, the firm’s chief executive, stays on for a few years to see through the integration. Analysts thought she was on her way out, not just because her strategy seemed to be failing, but because at 61, she is older than the standard retirement age for IBM bosses of 60.
这次收购可能意味着IBM的首席执行官罗睿兰(Ginni Rometty)将继续留任几年,以带领两家公司顺利整合。分析师早先认为她即将卸任,不仅是因为她的战略似乎不起作用,还因为她已经61岁,超过了IBM老板的标准退休年龄60岁。

More importantly, IBM hopes that the acquisition will give it a chance to catch up in the market for cloud computing. Big Blue failed to take the trend seriously in the late 2000s and decided not to invest in a network of huge data centres. As a result it has fallen behind the big “public” clouds (as opposed to “private” ones, which only serve a particular company), in particular Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Red Hat’s OpenShift is supposed to create an über-cloud, allowing computing workloads to run anywhere: whether it is in corporate data centres, on any of the big public clouds or a combination thereof.
更重要的是,IBM希望此次收购能让它有机会在云计算市场上赶上对手。大约十年前,蓝色巨人没把云计算的趋势当回事,决定不投资大型数据中心网络。其结果是它被那些大型“公有”云(相对于仅服务于某一家公司的“私有”云)甩在了后头,特别是亚马逊网络服务(Amazon Web Services)和微软Azure。IBM希望红帽的OpenShift能创建一个“超级云”,让计算工作可以在任何地方运行:无论是在企业数据中心还是任何大型公有云,抑或两者的混合。

There are plenty of ways for the merger, which is the largest in IBM’s history, to go wrong, however. One question is whether the added flexibility of such mixed systems and the promise of not getting locked into any one vendor will be enough to lure firms onto IBM’s new platform. They could shy away from the additional complexity and still prefer to put their data into one cloud. Another is the risk of a cultural clash between IBM’s still relatively strait-laced culture and Red Hat’s freewheeling one. Such concerns, in addition to the high price tag, explain why the firm’s shares fell by 4% the day after the deal was announced.

And then there is the question of what the acquisition means for Watson, IBM’s much-promoted AI business, which has disappointed so far. Some have suggested that buying Red Hat could mean that IBM will turn away from Watson, instead focusing even more on cloud computing. Yet the opposite is true: Red Hat’s software containers are meant to be a vehicle to deliver AI everywhere. The idea is that IBM’s cloud failure held Watson back; now it has the chance to spread more widely.

However the merger plays out, it has already produced one big winner: open-source software, which is developed collectively by firms that benefit from it and also by volunteer programmers. Red Hat is the third multi-billion dollar acquisition of an open-source firm this year after MuleSoft, bought by Salesforce for $6.5bn, and GitHub, taken over by Microsoft for $7.5bn. Not bad for a type of code whose pioneers saw themselves as rebels fighting “evil” proprietary-software makers. Such origins were the inspiration for Red Hat’s name, as Bob Young, the company’s co-founder, once explained: 18th-century revolutionaries in America and France wore red caps during their uprisings. Now, open-source firms look more like the establishment.
不管合并的结果如何,一个大赢家已然产生:开源软件。它们的开发者既包括志愿者程序员,也包括本身是从开源软件获益的公司。继Salesforce以65亿美元收购MuleSoft、微软以75亿美元收购GitHub之后,红帽是今年第三家收购价格在数十亿美元以上的开源软件公司。开源软件的先驱自视为与“邪恶”的专有软件制造商作战的反叛者,这种代码能取得这样的成绩实属不赖。开源软件这种意识形态上的起源正是“红帽”这个名字的灵感来源,正如公司联合创始人鲍勃·杨(Bob Young)曾解释过的那样:18世纪时,美国和法国的革命者在起义时头戴红帽。而现在,开源公司看起来越发像传统企业了。