The IT industry has been likened to a Coke and Pepsi world where everyone wants to be number one or two; there is no number three, according to the director and CTO of Sun Microsystems strategic insight office, Brian Wilson.
So which is the Coke and which the Pepsi of IT?
Wilson says IBM is Coke and Sun is Pepsi, the only two remaining IT infrastructure companies on the planet.
Wilson claims it is a two-horse race, because these are the companies that can provide it all from hardware to data management, operating systems, middleware, databases, software and integration - although he readily admits the two companies do it very differently.
"You might say what about EMC, Cisco or Red Hat, but they only have a piece each of the puzzle," Wilson said.
Wilson described Sun as an "infrastructure outfitter", because the company can provide every piece of the puzzle.
"But we do it by partnering, not stomping on our partners to have it all," he added.
The fundamental difference, Wilson said, is that IBM is a "people company" while Sun is an engineering firm investing $US1.7 billion a year on R&D.
"We have fewer than 40,000 employees while IBM has more than 320,000; we don't aspire to have that kind of headcount, because that's not what we are about," he said.
"Our strategy is to partner and we have 20,000 application vendors in our ecosystem."
Wilson went on to say that Oracle and Microsoft have another piece of the puzzle, but if "you accept our definition of what a systems company is then you must control the processor, chip, operating system and middleware".
"Hewlett-Packard sold off its middleware so now it has no control and the microprocessor design team is back with Intel; all they can do is send Intel a wishlist," he said.
"Then there is the legacy OS - HPUX - which is at the end of its life. Sure [HP] has printers and cameras but we're not interested in cameras; Sun is about infrastructure."
Wilson said in this world there is plenty of room for a Coke as well as a Pepsi.
"I'm not saying you buy everything from these two companies, but they are key partner candidates," he said adding that Sun's goal is to be the best backend in the business.
Wilson was speaking at Sun's Smarter Utilities Symposium in Melbourne, which was attended by more than 70 executives from organizations that provide services such as gas, electricity and water.
Both IBM and HP declined to comment.
Sandra Rossi attended the event as a guest of Sun Microsystems