Sun Enhances Tape Technology, But Will Oracle Want It?

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Sun Microsystems has enhanced its tape technology with new capacity and virtualization technology. The next question is, will that be enough to make it palatable for Oracle?

Sun on Tuesday said it increased the capacity and performance capabilities of its Sun StorageTek Virtual Systems Manager (VSM) tape virtualization archive solution.

The company also increased the capacity for its Sun StorageTek VSM5 tape library to 90 TB, and introduced the VSM5e, a lower-cost, entry-level version of the VSM5 for use at customer disaster recovery and test sites.

Also new from Sun is the StorageTek SL3000 Access Expansion Module, which gives the SL3000 tape library 24x7 availability with fully redundant and replaceable robotics.

The tape enhancements come at a transition time for Sun as it waits for the completion of Oracle's acquisition of the company.

Oracle last month said it plans to acquire Sun Microsystems in a $7.4 billion bid.

There is a lot of conjecture in the IT industry about whether Oracle will keep Sun's hardware business after the acquisition closes, and whether it will keep Sun's tape business if it hangs onto the hardware.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said in a question-and-answer session posted on the Oracle Web site earlier this month that his company will become a hardware vendor and support Sun's server and storage offerings after its acquisition of Sun closes.

Ellison, however, did not address specific parts of Sun's hardware business.

The tape business, in general, has been falling on tough times. IDC said in a recent report that the tape automation business fell last year, and is expected to continue to decline, thanks to the economic downturn in the short term and to a move toward disk-based backup and virtual tape library solutions in the long term.

If Oracle were to keep Sun's tape business, it would gain a significant, but falling, maintenance business, one that is completely different from Oracle's current business model.

One EMC executive said in an interview at the EMC World conference that it is doubtful Oracle would keep it. Instead, the exec said, Oracle is more likely to sell it to a company more used to handling maintenance revenue.

A couple of solution providers said this week they expect Oracle to consider keeping the tape business because, despite the declining business, tape is still the best long-term solution for the low-cost archiving of data.

Sun said all is not lost with its tape technologies. In a statement, the company said its StorageTek VSM enterprise revenue grew by double digits over last year.

So, will Oracle keep Sun's tape business? Any thoughts?

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