Sun's big potential in storage

Sun's big potential in storage

Sun's acquisition of StorageTek in June is still in its early days, and by no means has the dust begun to settle. And yet, a few things are becoming clear.

Most obviously, Sun's position in the marketplace relative to the other storage companies will undergo a significant shift. Why? Because the company's product portfolio now consists of existing Sun systems products, the Solaris operating system, the pre-existing Sun disk storage (for the most part this means the 3000- 6000- and 9000-series arrays, and the 5000-series network-attached storage line), and the tape and other product lines that Sun gets from the StorageTek deal. Putting all this together offers potential for Sun to experience a significant transformation.

Sun has always been a systems house that also did storage, but the technology that it will get from StorageTek (and importantly, the storage sales team) makes the company's position more akin to those of IBM and HP - which is to say, companies that do storage seriously, but which are equally serious about doing other things.

Of course, it is not nearly enough just to do several things - the trick is to do several things well. If you are an admin at a smaller site, it may be sufficient for Sun to do each of these things well, but separately. You may be happy with its liability to just manage systems, or just manage storage. If you have responsibilities for more complex sites however, or for sites that may be remote from one another, it will be important not only that Sun does these things well, but that it does them well in concert with one another.

This is the difference between putting a group of 1-year-old children together in a playpen, and putting together a group of 4-year-olds. In the first instance, they may play together well, but are likely to play seperately from one another. The 4-year-olds will play together and, for better or worse, will interact with one another.

Vendors that can look across storage, systems, networks, security, and any other IT elements that you may be managing have much to offer, not the least of which is the chance to manage IT as a single system rather than as an aggregate of a number of systems. There are many reasons for this, the most obvious being that no one can manage any complex environment without being able to monitor and analyze each piece of that environment. Lacking that, for instance, how would anyone know where the cause of a problem lies if the problem potentially touches both systems and networks, or networks and storage?

Sun cannot integrate much of this management right now, and even if it can get all its present set of ducks in a row, it still admits to having no ability to look across optical networks to understand the events occurring on remote parts of the data path. On the other hand, nobody else can do this either; in fact, as of this writing nobody even comes close.

As we say, these are still early days for Sun. It may take a couple of years for the company to put together management systems that interact. But our expectation for this should be much better than four years.

It will be interesting to see what Sun shows at Storage Networking World in Orlando at the end of this month. I'll make sure to take a good look. More on Sun next time.

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