Sun Microsystems on Wednesday revamped its storage strategy with a number of new hardware and software products and new channel initiatives to up its data center storage business at the expense of archrival EMC.
"We believe that EMC has been eating at our table far too long," said Mark Canepa, executive vice president of Sun Network Storage. "And that's not going to happen anymore."
That could be a tough task for Sun. According to a preliminary report compiled by research firm IDC late last year, Sun had a 6.5 percent revenue share of the total internal and external disk storage system in 2001, with total sales of $1.6 billion. That is a fall from the 10.5 percent market share the company had in 2000.
The picture is more gloomy in terms of Sun's own Solaris turf. For the year 2000, Gartner Dataquest estimated that Sun had only a 30.9 percent share of the Solaris storage market, compared with EMC's 43.1 percent share.
However, Sun is looking improve its standing with hardware and software products aimed at both the Solaris and heterogeneous storage markets, and plans to provide the services and partner support needed to make it happen.
On the hardware side, Sun unveiled two new versions of its T3 arrays, several enhancements to its flagship 9900 array, and the new L6000 enterprise tape library, a Sun-branded version of StorageTek's PowderHorn library.
The Sun StorEdge 3900 array is a cluster-enabled storage system with capacity from 600 Gbytes to 11 Tbytes and throughput of up to 1.6 Gbps, or four times that of EMC's Clariion 4700 array, Sun executives said. The 3900 can directly attach to up to seven servers over Fibre Channel or can attach to a Fibre Channel fabric. Features include remote system management and phone-home capabilities.
The Sun StorEdge 6900 is similar to the 3900, but it includes integrated storage virtualization capabilities and supports up to 512 LUNs.
The two arrays bring data center capabilities to the midtier market, Canepa said.
"[We took data center functionalities, things like hundreds of LUNs, and phone-home capabilities, features that have been traditionally available only in data center products with price tags that start at $400,000 and $500,000," said Canepa. "We've been able to move these things into midtier products. The 3900 starts at about $80,000, and the 6900 starts at a little over $100,000. So we've been able to move data center functionality to significantly lower price points."
A new version of the StorEdge 9900 array, which is built by Hitachi Data Systems, includes 2-Gbps Fibre Channel support for direct-attached storage, a new 180-Gbyte Fibre Channel hard drive option, storage resource management support and built-in data path failover support, Canepa said. Because of these features, Sun is now offering a 100 percent data availability guarantee with the 9900, he said.
On the software side, Sun on Wednesday unveiled four new software suites.
The Sun StorEdge Availability Suite offers snap copy and network replication capabilities, Canepa said. It allows local and remote mirroring between multivendor storage devices. With EMC, mirroring must involve two Symmetrix arrays, he said.
The Resource Management Suite allows monitoring and reporting on all the parts of a SAN, including multivendor servers, arrays, switches and host bus adapters, in order to complete practices such as chargebacks and storage policy management, Canepa said. Industry sources said this suite is based heavily on technology from Sun's acquisition of HighGround early last year, but Canepa would not confirm this.
The company's new Performance Suite and Utilization Suite allow data access from high-performance, high-end file systems, and access to up to 512 Tbytes of data, Canepa said.
With the new software, Sun is introducing software pricing based on storage capacity for the first time, said James Staten, director of strategy for Sun Network Storage. Pricing for the software suites, when bundled with the hardware, start at about $15,000 per Tbyte of capacity. Stand-alone versions of the software are also available, he said.
Sun's new emphasis on storage software is causing several industry observers to paint Sun as competing with long-term software partner Veritas Software. However, Sun still has a strong relationship with Veritas, said Ed Zander, Sun president and COO.
There are times when Sun may compete with all its partners, Zander said. "I have to look at the 90 percent of the time we don't compete. . . . We are complementary in some areas. We compete in some areas. But that's the way the world is," he said.
Sun is expanding its storage services offerings to include remote response and remote management of its 3900 and 6900 midrange products, Canepa said. The company also recently opened three Sun Storage Centers around the world where Sun and channel partners can test new storage configurations.
Sun also added new products and practices to its professional services, including implementation assistance services for the 3900 array and installation services for its 3900 and 6900 arrays, Canepa said.
For the first time, Sun is looking to move part of its professional services business through solution providers. Sun's channel partners can either license the company's professional services as part of their client offerings or can resell those services, said Bill Cook, vice president of global networked storage sales at Sun.
"This is something that our partners have been asking for . . . so they can go out and sell our professional services offerings, or be licensed to actually deliver the service on their own rights," Cook said. "So we're going to license our methodologies and our technologies so they can work hand-in-hand with us."
These services include category P pricing, meaning they were priced to ensure partners get good margins, Cook said.
As reported by CRN earlier this week, Sun also introduced Wednesday its iForce Storage Elite Program under which a limited number of solution providers that go through a rigorous training process can qualify for a rebate of 3 percent of list price for all Sun sales, including storage, servers and so on on a monthly basis.
To qualify, solution providers must make Sun storage at least 25 percent of the sales revenue for the month, said Bill Cate, director of U.S. product sales and channels.
Sun currently plans to have 15 solution providers certified for the program by the end of this month, Cate said. While the company is not limiting the number of Elite partners, Cate said he expects the number to top off at about 45 to 50.
While the emphasis is on making storage at least 25 percent of sales for Elite partners, Sun will be flexible, Cate said. For instance, a solution provider meeting that goal that gets a last-minute workstation order with no storage component might not lose the rebate, he said.
"The last thing we want to do is disincent a partner from taking down a sale in another product line to take advantage of a rebate program we have in place," Cate said. "No program you could ever design is bullet-proof. . . . The intention is to drive a services- and software-led sales through storage. If in fact we see anomalies like that, we'll address them."
EMC executives dismissed Sun's storage initiative by pointing out what they called an inconsistent storage message.
"Sun has had a tremendous, consistent track record of big announcements with lots of fanfare but no follow-through," said Ken Steinhardt, director of technical analysis for EMC. "They've had six totally different and incompatible storage products and architectures in the last five years, including its reseller deal with Hitachi. That's a record. Maybe IBM is close [to Sun's record. . . . Sun's track record speaks for itself."
Sun's new 3900 and 6900 arrays seem to offer minor modifications to the company's T3 array, Steinhardt said. "If this is so, then this is a product announced with great fanfare by Sun [in June 2000, but which cursed them to lose market share ever since," he said. "The new arrays could also affect Sun's Hitachi relationship."