Sun launches storage push

A new family of Intelligent StorEdge servers

By Rebecca Sykes and Elinor Mills

January  1998
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Boston (January 28, 1998) -- Setting its sights on doubling the size of its storage business by 2001, Sun Microsystems today announced a new storage architecture as well as new services, channels, and sales efforts.

Key to the new storage initiative is Sun's new Intelligent Storage Network architecture, which is based around a Unix symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) server running a full operating system which controls storage functions. It will allow customers to build storage networks with different software and hardware components that: offer users access to information via a Java Web browser; load data warehouses significantly faster; and consolidate storage systems for cost savings and easier management.

Sun also announced a new StorEdge family of multiplatform hardware and software building blocks based on the new architecture that can be matched to customers' application server requirements. StorEdge products are designed to be integrated into existing networks and work with Solaris and other operating systems.

The StorEdge family includes the following systems, some of which are new and others of which have been renamed and enhanced:

Sun is offering special price deals for customers wanting to upgrade from Sun SPARCstorage arrays to the A7000, A5000, and/or the A3000, the statements said. The company also has a trade-in offer for customers migrating from storage arrays made by IBM Corp., EMC Corp., Data General Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. or Digital Equipment Corp. to the StorEdge A7000 or A5000.


What's being said?
Analysts said Sun's apparent decision to focus on storage, including its recent acquisition of Encore Computer Corp.'s storage products, was a smart move.

"In order to sell high-end servers you absolutely need a high-end storage device," said Tom Lahive, senior analyst at Dataquest Inc., a research company based in San Jose, CA. "Encore immediately gives Sun a product that enhances Sun's high-end Unix server offerings."

Sun StorEdge A7000
Intelligent Storage Server System

In addition, Lahive praised Sun's decision to be more competitive in the non-captive marketplace by highlighting storage products that attach to HP servers or IBM mainframes. "Previously Sun only cared about their own environment," he said. "This is a great first step."

"Sun has awakened to the fact that there's tremendous money to be made in storage," said Rick Westerman, Meta Group's program director for Europe. "They will one day make more money off storage than servers."

Westerman said Sun's A7000 is particularly appealing to users in Europe who are dealing with a requirement that by next year they do transactions in both their local currency and the Euro, which is set to become the single currency for all members of the European Union. The A7000's data sharing and remote copy features can help customers to actualize their data separate from the original repository for the testing that the new regulation calls for, he said.

Sun's announcement is significant because it illustrates Sun's advocacy of a network which is dedicated to storage and separate from a host-based network used to pass information to and between users, said John Webster of Yankee Group Inc., based in Boston.

James Porter, president of Disk/Trend Inc. consultancy in Mountain View, CA, said Sun was doing an efficient job of ensuring interoperability between different storage systems, "and yes, they're picking up some share."

Despite all the praise, several analysts warned that Sun's vulnerability lies in an unlikely source -- Microsoft Corp. and Windows NT.

"They're [Sun] still coming at it from a Unix world," said Porter. "Looking at it from the outside, you have to ask if they're paying enough attention to Bill Gates [Microsoft chairman and CEO] and NT."

Sun was non-committal in responding to a question regarding whether or when it will use the CIFS (Common Internet File System) protocol, which is used by Windows NT and is an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) standard. Sun currently uses the NFS (Network File System) protocol.

"They should not underestimate the CIFS market," Meta's Westerman said.

Sales and services
Meanwhile, Sun announced the creation of a new sales force dedicated solely to storage and building on mainframe and multiplatform storage knowledge gained through its acquisition of Encore's storage business. The new sales force will be led by executives who left Sun storage rivals including Tim Holland, previously vice president of integrated solutions and service at StorageTek Corp. Working with Holland will be Jeffrey Allen, former vice president of channel marketing and sales support at EMC, who is now Sun's head of business operations and marketing for storage products.

As for new services, Sun announced new offerings targeted at the high-end storage market. Among them are a suite of data and storage management consulting and integration services, education courseware and enhanced support services, including support which is available seven days a week, twenty four hours a day and four-hour on-site support. In addition, Sun announced an alliance with services provider Comdisco Inc. to offer business continuity planning services.


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