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On Wednesday rumors surfaced IBM was in talks to buy Sun Microsystems in a deal that was reportedly worth $6.5 billion. Such a marriage between two industry titans might only be possible during a recession like this one. It points to a wave of potential consolidation, even among the biggest players. But questions over whether IBM was indeed the best suitor for Sun immediately arose.

After all, the companies have many overlapping technologies and products. And while they both play in the proprietary server and Unix space, they offer different flavors – AIX versus Solaris, and the Power versus the SPARC chip. Plus, Sun’s heavy concentration on that proprietary server space and late entry into the x86 server market is widely blamed for the company’s decline over the past few years. Meanwhile, IBM’s strategy has been to favor the services and solutions business instead of hardware sales, particularly commodity hardware. Witness the company’s sale of its PC unit to Lenovo.

Many think this rumored IBM/Sun marriage is doomed to fail even before the wedding announcement hits the papers.

With that in mind, here’s a list of potential suitors for Sun Microsystems and why they may be a better match for Sun than IBM.

Cisco (aka “the favorite”)
Cash Reserves: $26.76 billion
The networking giant made it clear earlier this week that it wants to be a player in the server market, and with that done, Cisco is likely to look to the storage market next. Sun can offer Cisco entrees into both of these spaces. Not to mention Sun’s credo “the Network is the Computer.” Sweeter words were never whispered in Cisco’s ear.

Cash Reserves: $8.57 billion
Dell too has been looking for paths to more profitable businesses with its focus on services, specialty PCs, storage and higher-end servers over the past few years. Some of this has come through internal development, but much of it has been acquired. Look at EqualLogic, Silverback and Alienware to name just a few examples of Dell’s recent strategic buys. Sun would give Dell something big to talk about for the data center – somewhere everyone wants to be — and a Unix/Linux play too, something that Dell lacks on its own.

Cash Reserves: $10.25 billion
HP may be the most unlikely suitor for Sun. After all, HP has its own industry standard x86 server business, a proprietary server business, a storage business and a services business. But Sun would provide a solid open source play for HP with its MySQL and Java. Still, reports about the IBM/Sun merger have said that HP turned Sun down.

Cash Reserves: $1.30 billion
While the buyer of IBM’s PC business has shown an appetite for hardware businesses and recently licensed some of IBM’s server technology to sell under the Lenovo brand, Lenovo is a longshot as a suitor. That’s because of its low cash reserves of just $1.3 billion. Lenovo would have a much tougher time putting such a deal together.

Cash Reserves: $14.41 billion
While both companies are seeped in Silicon Valley culture, and Google’s cash reserve is more ample than IBM’s $9.76 billion, Google is another longshot, as is any of the companies who say they will provide the “cloud” – Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Google has enjoyed success without getting mired in the hardware business which has reached maturity and is not considered high growth. The business models are also too dissimilar, and Google’s has proven a better one for the times.