Sun Strengthens Its Storage Strategy

With its new Storage ONE architecture and new software and hardware products, Sun aims to tap into its own base of server customers now getting their storage products from competitors EMC, IBM, Compaq and others.
With the goal of turning IT executives who buy its server products into storage customers, too, Sun Microsystems unveiled a broad new storage strategy, along with new software and systems, on Wednesday in San Francisco.

Sun's new offerings include mid-range storage systems, StorEdge 3900 and 6900, with prices starting around $80,000 and $100,000, respectively, to compete against storage products from EMC, IBM, Compaq and others. It also launched four new suites of storage software that promise to better manage storage systems and more effectively use an enterprise's existing resources. It also announced enhanced storage services.

It's all part of Sun's new overarching storage architecture called Storage ONE, for Open Net Environment. As enterprises push for open, interoperable, consolidated data and storage systems, Sun's new offerings promise to help companies better manage heterogeneous storage systems, maximize their storage resources and ensure data continuity. Sun hopes to be seen as a enterprise's sole supplier of server and storage technology.

For IT execs, it means the battle for your storage dollars will escalate as Sun pushes its "end-to-end" solutions to corporate customers. Right now, a significant portion of Sun's server customers buy their storage from EMC and others. To win them back, Sun is hoping that these complete solutions --hardware, software and services-- will appeal to them. Sun execs say it products are superior and offer lower total cost of ownership, among other benefits.

Sun President Ed Zander acknowledged that Sun is taking separate short-term and long-term views of who its competition is. In the short-term, Storage ONE is aimed at tapping into its own server customers buying storage from industry leader EMC. Long-term, he views IBM as the main competition, and considers all systems companies with end-to-end offerings to be strong competition.

"IBM, over the long-term, is the competition. (Today) EMC is the leader. I don't think IBM has the product, both hardware and software," Zander said.

The fresh focus on enterprise storage comes as the industry experiences continued demand for increased storage resources. To hedge against falling prices by creating new revenue opportunities, EMC is already pursuing a strategy to offer storage software that can manage the storage systems of other vendors.

The stakes are high for Sun, whose CEO Scott McNealy promised this week that the company would return to profitability in the quarter ending this June. Storage sales are seen as a major source of its future revenues. Sun says it views the addressable storage market to be a $12 billion market.

"Success in the storage industry is about execution. We are delivering what our customers are asking for: storage software, systems and services that are fully optimized for and integrated into their end-to-end IT infrastructure," says Mark Canepa, Sun's executive vice president, network storage.

Sun believes it now has strong mid-range offerings in the StorEdge 3900 and 6900, which manage storage for various operating systems (Windows, Linux, HP-UX and others) and give remote management capability for Sun service. The 3900 is a fibre channel product with connections that support up to 11 terabytes of data. Sun says it delivers "four times the bandwidth" of EMC's Clariion array.

The 6900 series is designed for mid-range storage consolidation and offers 11 terabytes of storage. It provides "the first integrated storage virtualization system optimized for the Solaris Operating Environment," according to Sun.

Both products are lower-cost products that compliment Sun's StorEdge 9900, introduced last year. As part of its announcement Wednesday, Sun said it was updating the 9900 series.

The level of software, hardware and services integration with Sun's new offerings "shows the determination of Sun's development organizations to 'get it right' for their customers," says John Young, storage analyst for DHBrown. Sun Storage ONE and the StorEdge 3900 and 6900 series "are strong evidences of Sun's commitment to deliver integrated solutions in response to identified customer needs."

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