Sun May Move All Storage To StorageTek Brand

The acquisition is expected to result in Sun moving its entire storage portfolio, including the enterprise-class arrays its resells from Hitachi Data Systems, under the StorageTek brand, and the disappearance of the Sun StorEdge brand, according to several channel sources.

Sun officials did not comment on StorageTek's shareholder approval of the acquisition, or on a wholesale move to bring all its storage under the StorageTek moniker. However, a Sun spokesperson said that Sun recognizes that the value of the StorageTek name is much higher than that of the StorEdge brand.

Focusing its storage business with the StorageTek brand makes sense for Sun because of how poorly Sun is executing in the storage market, solution providers said. For instance, Sun's disk business fell nearly 5 percent from 2003 to 2004 to $1.2 billion, while the industry as a whole increased 4 percent, according to IDC.

StorageTek officials told several of the company's channel partners about the possible change in Sun storage branding at a channel conference the company held last week in Lake Tahoe, Calif.

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One solution provider attendee, who requested anonymity, said that StorageTek's channel partners that do not work with Sun will be grandfathered into the new Sun storage channel, but will not be automatically authorized to sell the entire Sun product portfolio.

"It will be interesting to see the play between the general Sun reps and StorageTek reps," the solution provider said. "Supposedly, StorageTek will have autonomous sales organization through the fourth quarter of this year."

For many in the channel, the opportunity to get a complete ILM offering makes the merger of Sun's and StorageTek's storage lines a sweet one.

Pat Edwards, vice president of sales at Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based storage solution provider that joined the Sun channel this year, said he is looking forward to the "new Sun."

"StorageTek has the best ILM offerings," Edwards said. "They're coupling that with Sun's strong product line, including servers, operating systems, and Java. The two together will make it the biggest player in the ILM space."

Sun solution providers that already have strong StorageTek relationships will see the most benefit from the acquisition because of how difficult it can be to succeed in the enterprise storage space, Edwards said.

"Other Sun partners can sell Sun servers, but storage is different," he said. "Sun's poor storage offerings in the past is the reason Sun was not doing well in the storage space. But Sun will now pressure its partners to sell more storage. It picked up the pretty girl at the dance, and now it needs to make the relationship work."

Bringing the two lines together will mean a full line of ILM products from the enterprise-class TagmaStore arrays that Sun resells from Hitachi Data Systems through midrange and entry-level arrays through StorageTek tape, said John Orr, president of Irvine, Calif.-based Stack Computer, which works with both vendors.

However, said Orr, the success depends on how the acquisition is executed. "If it is executed really well, it can be viable," he said. "We'll see. StorageTek never had experience in selling high-end storage like the HDS line. Their sales organization will have to retrain. And the timing is critical. There's not a long window of opportunity for them."

The move could create new opportunities for Bear Data, a Belmont, Calif.-based solution provider founded by CEO Don James, who previously worked for Sun partner FusionStorm.

"We could embrace Sun and sell their server line," James said. "But our IBM relationship is doing really well, and we don't want to do anything to jeopardize that. But up here in the Bay area, Sun has the number one installed base."

The acquisition might also mean new business for Bell Microproducts, the San Jose, Calif.-based distributor that currently carries the StorageTek line but not the Sun line.

Gary Gammon, senior vice president of marketing and sales in Bell's Enterprise Division, said that his organization expects to continue selling StorageTek products. "We expect to have a broader set of storage products from Sun," he said. "It depends on how Sun executes its channel strategy. With the StorageTek acquisition, Sun needs to keep the StorageTek name prevalent, and needs the channel to do it."

The company purchased Encore Computer, a storage array vendor, in 1997, followed by storage software developer Red Cape Software in 1998. In early 1999, Sun acquired MaxStrat, a storage array vendor whose technology appeared in Sun's T3 family of arrays. However, the T3 family never really matured, and was quietly dropped in favor of a new family of arrays OEM'd from Engenio.

Sun made a high-profile acquisition of Highground Systems, a developer of storage resource management software, in April 2001, but little was heard of the software after the acquisition.

Sun acquired Pirus Networks, a developer of storage provisioning software, in late 2002. That company's technology appeared in Sun's recent release of its StorEdge 6900 family of arrays, and its former CEO, Rick Napolitano, is now president of Sun's U.S. sales organization.

In addition to its HDS relationship, Sun also sells entry-level arrays from Carlsbad, Calif.-based Dot Hill. And both Sun and StorageTek resell arrays from Milpitas, Calif.-based Engenio Information Technologies.