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Commentary: Cloudy prospects for Sun

It will be a challenge for Sun Microsystems to improve its position in the storage market--although a new philosophy from the leader of the company's storage business would certainly help.

By Robert Passmore, Gartner Analyst

It will be a challenge for Sun Microsystems to improve its position in the storage market--although a new philosophy and storage strategy from the leader of Sun's storage business, Mark Canepa, would certainly help.

Gartner believes that the company clung too long to the "storage as a feature" philosophy typical of the 1980s. The result is that Sun is late in catching the current wave of storage networking that vendors such as IBM, EMC, Compaq Computer, Network Appliance and others are already riding.

Gartner expects that, in the near future, Sun will help its storage strategy in two ways: by planning to support its T3-based storage area networks (SANs) on non-Sun servers, beginning with those that run Windows NT; and by planning to expand the scope and size of the storage networking capability in its SANs--special-purpose networks that join storage devices and servers.

These are very important steps for Sun because, Gartner believes, about 80 percent of external storage will be networked by 2004.

When compared to the competition today, Sun's T3 storage product is missing a lot of important features (for example, point-in-time copy, remote replication and SAN management).

See news story:
Sun exec hopes to elevate storage
Sun does offer some of those features in host-based software on Solaris, but that helps Sun little when selling against high-end, feature-rich offerings on other platforms. IBM, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Dell Computer and others offer high-end, multiplatform products that are loaded with features, as well as low-end offerings of modest capabilities that can compete with T3.

For example, IBM's Fast T200 storage product running on an IBM server meets the price and features of Sun T3 running on a Sun server. In addition, IBM has its Enterprise Storage Server (aka Shark) with which it can offer many features and heterogeneous SAN capabilities. Sun can beat EMC's price, but EMC can counter with superior capabilities from its multiplatform, multifeatured midrange offering. Against Network Appliance, Sun--which is largely credited with having invented file serving--loses on performance and manageability.

Gartner believes that Canepa's biggest challenge will be to duplicate Sun's server storage success in a market in which storage is increasingly independent of servers.

(For related commentary on Sun Microsystems, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.