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Sun touting latest storage push

In what COO Ed Zander is calling a new strategy for the server company, Sun is set to announce a group of storage products Wednesday. Its mission: Chip away at EMC.

Server maker Sun Microsystems is making a play for a chunk of the storage market with a product it hopes will compete with servers from EMC and other storage companies.

Sun Chief Operating Officer Ed Zander, speaking with CNET Radio on Wednesday, said the new efforts--to be unveiled at an analyst conference Wednesday--are only the latest in a string of moves into the storage area. But he added that the announcement is an important culmination of work that has been going on at the company since the late '90s.

"A couple years ago we recognized that storage would be a big market opportunity and core competency for the company in this new networked age," Zander said, "so we put a team in place, we invested heavily, and we bought several companies. It's not a renewed effort; this is just the latest in a series of several announcements for us."

Zander said the company has been making acquisitions since 1997 to enable it to make this kind of strategic move.

However, Sun has been trying to elevate its storage division for years, with numerous acquisitions and initiatives but not much progress.

The company has already run through a list of product launches for the storage market, including the A7000, which was considered a dud, and the T3, which was released in June 2000. Those products didn't compete effectively with EMC, though.

Sun eventually took the same route as Hewlett-Packard and began selling the high-end storage system from Hitachi subsidiary Hitachi Data Systems.

"This is very tough stuff to do to manage all the data, the transactions, and eventually, the video and audio," Zander said. "R&D takes awhile."

Storage a ray of light for Sun, COO says
Ed Zander, chief operating officer, Sun Microsystems

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Sun declined to provide specific details about its products ahead of a scheduled press release at 1:30 p.m. PST, but Zander described the products as a mix of software and hardware that would provide some stiff competition to other storage companies.

"Very few vendors--IBM, EMC and Compaq--can offer everything from the very low-end storage subsystems through the mid-end to the high-end system," Zander said. "Whether it's price performance, availability, reliability, or stuff around disaster recovery, security and business continuance, which is hot in today's market, we have a suite of software products ready to go," Zander said. He added that "one-stop shopping" would have big appeal with customers that already use Sun's servers.

Sun's move into storage is a natural progression considering it already has hardware inside most companies. In the past, companies have used EMC for storage by running its software on other hardware from Sun, IBM and other companies.

Zander said its new set of products marked a new strategy for the company. Most important is the new message, he said: "It's a total, complete offering."

The news didn't do much to renew flagging confidence in the company's stock on Wall Street. Shares were down 69 cents, or 7 percent, to $9.46.

Despite the "major new product announcement" Sun is touting, Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi said he continues to believe that "regaining share lost to EMC on the Solaris platform will be difficult."

SG Cowen Securities analyst Richard Chu said he thought the company would indeed launch a more "integrated attack" on the storage market, but he questioned whether this third solo attempt would "be a charm."