Sun's decade of storage woe

Summary:Sun recently shifted engineering responsibility for the Pirus-based 6920 to Hitachi, a prelude to discontinuing the product. Thus closes a chapter on another Sun storage acquisition.

Sun recently shifted engineering responsibility for the Pirus-based 6920 to Hitachi, a prelude to discontinuing the product. Thus closes a chapter on another Sun storage acquisition.

The storage group’s acquisition history is chilling. In the last 12 years they’ve bought a number of companies for something on the order of a billion dollars, not counting Cobalt ($2B) which didn’t become part of the storage group or StorageTek, which is the storage group now:

  • Red Cape: policy-based storage management-no product
  • Encore: the A9000: epic fiasco – all returned
  • Max Strat: supercomputer guys build Windows storage lacking basic array functionality - modest sales
  • HighGround: Windows-based storage management for Solaris, anyone?
  • Pirus: which took 18 months to ship and then flop, now put out to pasture
  • Procom: NAS software – for the company that invented NAS with NFS?
  • $4B StorageTek acquisition - justified for the sales force and cash flow - jury is still out - massive STK real estate holdings may justify this financially

Sun didn't just bungle storage acquisitions. Their attach rate - Sun storage sold on Sun servers - has long been the lowest among system vendors, declining from 1995-2005 from about 75% to less than 50%. Internal development was gutted in favor of a dog's breakfast of OEM deals. Net net: customers who wanted great storage were trained to go anywhere but Sun.

The dysfunction continued under three GMs and a regular churn of the marketing team. It seems that the new CEO has recognized that, like some toxic dump, the only way to rebuild Sun storage is to call in the bulldozers and cart the whole mess away. Sun is stripping the "old" storage group of much of its former responsibilities by moving much of the system level storage software to Solaris. And they kept the one piece of cool Sun-engineered storage - the X4500 - out of the storage group as well, although it is still mis-marketed.

The take What's puzzling is that today's storage market still looks so much like the mini-computer market in the early 1980's when Sun was founded. Bomb-throwing Sun rebels should be fomenting revolution using open standards, commodity hardware and clever software to overthrow the cozy oligarchy of high-margin storage companies. All the pieces are there. Just don't ask Sun's storage folks to do it.

I hope Sun finds its footing in storage, but I'm not holding my breath. This industry needs a good shaking of the sort that Sun circa 1985 gave the minicomputer business. Who will step up to the plate?

Comments welcome!

Topics: Oracle, Storage

About

Harris has been working with computers for over 35 years and selling and marketing data storage for over 30 in companies large and small. He introduced a couple of multi-billion dollar storage products (DLT, the first Fibre Channel array) to market, as well as a many smaller ones. Earlier he spent 10 years marketing servers and networks.... Full Bio

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