Sun Microsystems has spent years getting bludgeoned by commodity hardware and software. Now it's planning to apply those painful lessons to its competitors in the storage industry, as highlighted by The New York Times reporter Ashlee Vance:
In the early part of this decade, Sun learned all too well just how disruptive ("good enough" technology at a significant discount) can be. Customers moved away from products built on Sun's own custom microprocessors and software to cheaper servers that relied on Intel processors and the open-source Linux operating system. While larger customers still wanted Sun's high-end hardware for some tasks, the Intel-and-Linux combination could satisfy the majority of most customers' needs.
Software plays a large role in any discussion of this type, and again Sun thinks it has something that can rattle NetApp and EMC.
Sun spent years fighting this trend toward "good enough at a great price," but now it's wielding the weapon of open-source software and commodity hardware (as well as its not-so-commodity hardware). It seems to be working. The Register reports that Sun grew its market share in the external disk storage market faster than any other vendor in the second quarter of 2008 at 34.7 percent to NetApp's 22.9 percent growth.
The key for Sun will be to sustain this growth. It won't be an easy task, but customers should be cheering as Sun lowers the cost of storage and improves choice and flexibility through open source. NetApp may not like it, but then, Sun didn't like getting beaten up for its former proprietary intransigence, either. Sun learned its lesson. Will NetApp also learn?