Storage Soup

Dec 18 2008   10:48AM GMT

Sun repackages data center products and services

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Yesterday I met with Amy O’Connor, who has recently been named VP of services for Sun Microsystems. She told me about new product and services packages Sun would launch today. We also had an interesting discussion about the state of Sun and its services division.

The announcement made today was “Rapid Solutions”– bundles of hardware, software, “cookbooks” and services aimed at data center efficiency, Web infrastructure and high-performance computing. Each of those areas had one bundle introduced today.

Under data center efficiency, Sun rolled out a managed virtual desktop service, in which users deploy hardware and software on premise but the day to day management is run by Sun remotely. The user still has to host all the data, which can be a challenge when it comes to remote desktops where some kind of deduplication or single-instancing tools are required to cut down on redundant machine images.

For Web infrastructure, the first package rolled out for cloud service providers is a bundle of database and identity management tools, including MySQL, Sun Java Identity Management, and Open SSO (single sign-on), servers and storage systems. The storage in this case is Sun StorageTek 6000 disk arrays, but O’Connor said Open Storage packages may also be included down the road.

Finally, O’Connor admitted, the high performance computing market for Sun has weakened in the current economy, but for that vertical Sun is packaging up compute nodes and storage.

Notice storage is involved in every bundle. “We’re also working on the scale of open storage systems–you’ll see a lot more in this space,” O’Connor said. “Sun got that storage religion–when they bought StoragTek I don’t think they quite had it yet.

“Let’s face it,” she went on. “Five years ago, storage had its own acronyms and was a separate shop. If you weren’t a storage person you didn’t talk storage and data. Now everyone talks storage and data, rather than just threads and CPU. I would say at this point in time everything we do is about storage, and we wouldn’t be in a position to compete there at all if it wasn’t for StorageTek.”

There has been a lot of speculation about the StorageTek business at Sun lately. Sun hasn’t done much to enhance StorageTek’s disk products, and a lot of people in the industry suspect Sun is looking to spin off the tape business to raise money.

But O’Connor says the StorageTek IP and personnel remain key pieces of Sun’s business.

“The acquisition put thought leadership in our sales force in terms of integrating different product units,” she said. “I’ve never believed in our roadmap more than I do today.”

Hearing that kind of statement from a Sun executive brings back memories of the first STK Forum I ever attended, just after the acquisition by Sun in 2005. I remember a parade of executives trotted out on stage, almost all of them new to their roles, and many new to Sun while the ink was still fresh on the merger. The execs making statements exactly like O’Connor’s included Mark Canepa and Brenda Zawatski, who are both long gone from Sun.

Since then there’s been another series of execs in charge of storage divisions, including Nigel Dessau and David Yen, who also talked confidently and optimistically about Sun’s latest new direction, only to wind up leaving the company as it heads in yet another new direction. O’Connor has been with Sun many years and her colleagues speak highly of her, but there’s only so many times you can hear the same thing from the same company without any action to back it up before you begin to view such statements a bit more skeptically.

But not everybody is so skeptical of Sun. There are some who feel Open Storage may finally be a place Sun can settle for a while.

“Sun’s had a major midlife crisis,” was how Taneja Group analyst Jeff Boles put it. The company has emerged with the server-storage convergence/open source identity, which “seems like it’s locked in and might be good for the new cloud computing paradigm.”

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